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What inept shooters the Germans were, firing with MGs for 9 hours at men in the open at less than 500m and only hitting 6-7 apiece. (The MGs that is. Man for man they hit all of 2).

It takes a lot more than one MG to stop a company. At Omaha, the Germans had 29 per mile.

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URD suggests that all one needs to do is advance, since MGs in BB and AK are fluffy little bunnies. I think the infantry drill involved is rather more complicated than that, and depends on firepower from the attackers, and a range to fire, ammo limit dilemma for the defenders. So I decided to do a little test.

800m by 400m map. Flat as a pool table, all open except a few patches of multiple-tile scattered trees at the German end. The Germans defend with 10 trenches in these trees. Their force is -

company HQ

platoon HQ

4 squads each LMG, SMG, 8 rifles

section HQ

4 HMG 42

These are positioned in three "star shaped" trench complexes. The left has 2xHMG, section HQ. Middle has 3xsquad, company HQ. Right has 2xHMG, 1xsquad, platoon HQ. All units are regulars. The section HQ on the left has +1 combat, the HQ on the right +1 morale, and company HQ +2 morale.

The HQs are behind in each star of trenches, on 100m 180 degree covered arcs. The squads are on 250m arcs. The HMGs are on 500m arcs. There are 76 Germans all told.

At the other end of the pool table are 2 companies of Russian infantry, 1943 pattern. (Date is Kursk era). Nothing added to them, and regulars. These are each in line, 3 platoons plus a weapon section of company HQ, MMG, with 2 50mm mortars slightly trailing. The weapons are center-right position in the first, and center-left position in the second. The second follows the first immediately, on an interval of 100m or less. There are 275 Russians all told.

No fancy tailoring. Just advance, that is the theory. The weapons can't, so they use "move". Everyone else puts in a big honking advance order clear to the German end and the trees.

It takes only 3 minutes for the Russians to get tired, naturally. When they do I pause some for a minute. Anyone at tiring or better keeps going. After the bit of pause, everyone pushes if not exhausted, and I adhere to that rule thereafter. Notice, this is *not* how I usually advance. It is pushing as hard as the men can stand. Just use the magical advance order, nothing else involved. Let's see what happens.

After the first 8 minutes, 22 men have been hit. 3 are in panic, 66 are pinned, and 48 are in the yellow morale states (cautious or shaken). In addition, 119 are exhausted and 60 are tired. They've stalled about 400m from the enemy. Pushed too hard from too far away, they are just plain winded. The losses aren't serious, but the pin state is. And the fatigue state is just unlivable.

So they are forced to wait for several minutes. Units that reach "tiring" - or better - continue to move. Everyone else tries to breath for a few minutes. After 12 minutes total have elapsed, most are back to tiring and the advance resumes. At this point, the men are strung out at distances from 175m to 375m from the front of the trees.

The renewed advance gets that range down to 100m to 300m by the end of 15 minutes elapsed. It pushed the men right back to tired but they do not stop. 56 men have been hit in 15 minutes. 9 are in red morale, 86 are pinned, 52 in yellow morale. 73 are exhausted and 97 are tired.

On the other side of the hill, the German HMGs are starting to run low on ammo. The men are untouched, only a few sound contacts, and some empty trench spots in the center.

If I were attacking I'd rest the men. But I'm not, I am testing a theory about "just advance", planning to walk right up to and over the defenders, pushing as hard as the men will go. So anybody not on "exhausted" heads straight at the Germans and the cover.

After 20 minutes, the ranges are 60m to 200m. The German squad infantry is pulling triggers. 82 Russians have been hit - 30% of the force. (Realistically, they'd pack it in with losses that high. But this is a test of "just advance", not a global morale ceasefire agreement post). The Russians got a spot and their 50mm mortars - ragged out, down 9 men, 2 of them immobilized - empty their ammo. 7 Russians are in red morale, 40 pinned, 9 yellow. 15 Russians are exhausted and 109 are tired.

Notice, much less heavily pinned than before. The reason is the German HMGs are very low on ammo, and have gone to 100m covered arcs. The routine I used there was, any unit under 20 ammo goes to 150m arcs, any unit at 10 ammo or below goes on 100m arcs. The HQs are still on 100m arcs, regardless of ammo state. The last of the squads to engage is firing a bit farther for a bit longer, but soon everyone is one "FPF" lines.

After the first 20 minutes, the German HMGs have 29 ammo plus one jammed, maybe 40 when that is cleared. One of the squads has been halved by Russian 50mm and MMG fire - 5 men hit leaving LMG and 4 rifles, morale recovered - and has 7 ammo left. The other 3 have 22 ammo all told and are at full strength. The HQs are mostly full, only the company HQ down to 27.

The proper procedure at this point would be for the Russians to proceed by fire. They have ammo at full in their units not too ragged out. They could wait and shoot, and the Germans (having fired a bit too much at 400-500m ranges, even when the Russians paused to catch their breath) can't really fire back effectively. A base of fire, then a few of the fresher men advancing in one area. The pause to shoot would also let them catch their breath.

But the thesis is not packet tactics or winning through firepower, it is "just advance". So everybody not exhausted pushes, pushes, pushes, as close to the trees as they can get, until stopped by fire. What happens?

After 25 minutes, 111 Russians have been hit - and 8 Germans. 1 Russian surrendered. (He got close to the German trenches and nobody else made it there with him). 12 ran off the edges of the map, routed. 6 others are routed on the map. 25 are pinned and 9 yellow morale. 72 are exhausted and 34 are tired. Their mortars are dry and their MMGs have 22 shots left between them.

On the other side of the hill, the Germans lost 2 rifles and an HMG crewmember. The HMGs have 2, 2, 1, and LOW ammo. All squad infantry is LOW. The company HQ has 7. The other HQs still have ammo - 35 and 37.

Notice, essentially half the Russian force has been destroyed. The other half is deeply fatigued but not pinned. It also has no coherence as a force. Even now, if they just stopped trying to move and shot instead, they might get somewhere. But we push to see what pushing gets you.

After 30 minutes, 143 Russians have been hit (fully half). 25 ran off the map. 26 are routed on the map. The good order force now outnumbered by the Germans. Half of them are exhausted and the other half are "only" tired and pinned. The Germans have lost 10 men all told. The rear HQs have 6 and 12 shots, everyone else is low. But they are still putting out enough at point blank to keep scattered half squads away from their holes.

Here is a screenshot of the 30 minute final state.


That was 2 companies, not one. Against a single platoon and 4 HMGs. If you put in steppe and a few scraps of attacker cover, and improved the heavy weapons slightly, I could readily take that Russian force and make the attack successfully. But not by just advancing. Just advancing doesn't work. The men come apart if pushed too hard.

The key is pacing the whole thing so the force arrives at full ID range in decent shape. That means pausing at "tiring", not "exhausted". It means shooting back instead of moving every unit that can. It means using each scrap of cover, to give units time to rest where they won't attract fire.

Losing 82 men in such an attack is completely unacceptable. Losing 143 and having it fail is a bloody shambles. Even the 56 men hit by minute 15 is 20% of the attacking force, and as much as I'd be willing to lose at the end following the final melees, with the Germans annihilated. As it was, the Germans scored 520 KO points with a force half that size (not counting the trenches - 2/3rds counting them).

This is perfectly deadly enough to punish poor tactics.

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Originally posted by JasonC:

What inept shooters the Germans were, firing with MGs for 9 hours at men in the open at less than 500m and only hitting 6-7 apiece. (The MGs that is. Man for man they hit all of 2).

It takes a lot more than one MG to stop a company. At Omaha, the Germans had 29 per mile.

Omaha is an absurd pick for a scenario about a pure infantry assault, as the assault included tens of tanks and godless amounts of arty.

still the German machineguns were the worst thing for the attackers at Omaha.

one MG does stop a company at open flat ground. as shown single machineguns stopped infantry for hours even at Omaha where infantry had tanks, special equipment, huge amounts of arty support and were transported to 500 meters from the MG positions.

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Originally posted by JasonC:

URD suggests that all one needs to do is advance, since MGs in BB and AK are fluffy little bunnies. I think the infantry drill involved is rather more complicated than that, and depends on firepower from the attackers, and a range to fire, ammo limit dilemma for the defenders. So I decided to do a little test.

if you want to do a test about the issue then simply run something like this:

the plot:

a weakened rifle platoon will advance like brainless automatons on open flat ground towards two HMGs (with HQ command) at a treeline. the weakened rifle platoon will simply overrun the HMGs while suffering around 5 casualties.

defender's forces:

2 x HMG (e.g. MG42)

1 x HQ

attacker's forces:

1 x HQ

3 x Rifle squad (drop one squad from 4 squad platoon as it's not needed and would only make the test slower to run)

all units are regulars.


open flat ground, except for woods at one edge. place a flag at the woods and the defenders on the treeline close to the flag.

put the attackers 500 meters from the treeline. if you want the machineguns to open fire earlier or later adjust the startup positions of the attackers.


command defenders as you wish.

command attackers towards the treeline using a combination of advance & hide. advance about 20 meters per turn. stop an individual squad if necessary and then later catch up with 30 meter advances. when you get about 150 meters from the defenders stop using hide command unless necessary, so that you give a little pain to the MGs. at around 100 meters advance in two big leaps to 30 meters from the defenders so that the squads use grenades.

HMGs should be overrun in 20-25 minutes.

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MG side lost 1 man, attacked failed. 6 Russians alive but routed at the end.

At the 30 minute mark, the Russians had 1 squad dead, the HQ alerted and -1 man, the other two squads -1 man each with one in panic and the other broken. The German HMGs were 1-2 ammo and soon LOW, but the HQ still had ammo. One Russian squad at 6-3 broken made it to the same woods. The German HQ came over the wiped them out.

I concentrated the MG fire on single targets. If one jammed (happened 3 times) I waited. At 400m I hit target for 2 minutes straight. At 200m I hit each for a minute with both. Then they went on short covered arcs for FPF.

The hide did not make them lose the target - open is not brush and all 3 Germans have binocs.

The ranged fire hit 3 men and rattled one squad (broken but recovered a few minutes later), hit 1 man in another.

The 200m fire was much more deadly, rattling another squad, hitting men in each. When the previous 6-3 rattled guy had his turn come again, he routed rapidly, turned sideways, and was hit by both MGs multiple times on "run" at 150m. Wiped out.

The Russians had only sound even at 150m. Hiding kills spots, and for all they knew the real range looked like it was still 200m. When they stopped using the hides, they picked up one HMG but not the other. One squad shot at it a few times, only got it to shaken. Then that squad broke.

There was a period when the HMGs were completely dry and the Russians were in the open at 100m, rallying faster then the little HQ could ding each one. It shot at the ones that were obviously running to make sure they kept running. A squad rallied and joined the HQ in this period, because there was literally no one to shoot at them.

That squad and the HQ made the prescribe bound to grenade range. The HQ was wiped out at 25m. The squad made it to about 60m, drew fire from the German HQ, routed and moved into the woods (right and forward, breaking LOS to the nearest HMG). That is the one the German HQ went to finish off. Got it down to 3 men who ran out of the woods, and died in the open.

If I had paced the HMG fire better, it would have been even easier. I could readily have held my fire until 400m, shut off all fire until 200m with more ammo left, and broken the last bits with ammo still in the guns. But I started at 500m as prescribed.

A single platoon using that drill can readily overrun *one* MG. But not two and an HQ. Even so, you can use 40-50m advances and make it go a lot faster, and start firing rather than moving as soon as you have a full ID. Only one squad needs to make it to grenade range, and after fire - not lack of ammo - has put the HMG heads down. Using cover along the route will also keep losses minimal.

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In case anybody doesn't see it, the slow approach is a sucker play. If the attackers spend all their ammo at 400m, you spend 3 extra minutes and rally from it, and they are dry. You get through the close range window intact, and hose them. If the Tac AI picks, it spreads even that pain around and nobody gets hurt much.

All the defender has to do in response is hold his ammo for closer firing, which he knows he will have time to deliver, since the attack is so slow. And when he does fire, hammer units hard instead of spreading around every minute.

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I've reproduced the test results twice more, with variations on the rate of advance. A 3 squad platoon doesn't have a prayer of attacking and winning across open ground against 2 HMGs, if the HMG commander knows what he is doing.

You just watch the rate of advance. You only need to fire rapidly if they are coming on fast. If they are taking their sweet time about it, take your own time about opening up. When you do open up, hammer the same unit until you see it run. Not heads down, hightailing it. That is "routed". Pursue by fire for one additional minute with one MG. Then wait for whatever range you like before picking on the next one.

You have to pace the ammo to last through the depth of the attackers, not the length of the attack in time. You can break one of them at long range but it takes ammo. The next you will want to break closer in. The closer you break a given target, the less ammo it takes. You don't need to be in any great hurry, unless they are coming on fast.

They won't get spots, all busted and heads down, until 125 to 150m (assuming you are in woods etc). You can stop them from making any rapid advance whenever you like, by just putting an HMG on each of 2 targets. But don't do this unless you think they are actually making a rush. Concentrate instead.

What the spot range and ability to slow them together mean is, you are in no danger from them yourself, even at 200m. That is a nice spot to shoot them. You want to spend about half your ammo in the 200-250m range. Save some for FPF - 20 rounds per MG is comfortable. Think of the remainder as your budget for ranged MG fire.

That is, starting ammo 75, 85, 105, you budget -

FPF - 20, 20, 20

medium range - 35, 40, 50

long range - 20, 25, 35

By "long" I mean the entire 250m to 500m window. If your own cover isn't great and you expect enemy heavy weapons overwatch etc, you might extend what counts as "medium" slightly and make the 300m to 500m range window count as "long".

The medium range window is 150m to 250m, or 200m to 300m if you are being conservative about when you might be spotted etc.

When you have squad infantry to handle the under 250m stuff, you might be more aggressive about using the MGs for medium to long range fire, with the idea of withdrawing the "dry" HMGs. But the above scheme will still be effective, as is, and will leave MG shooters in the foxhole line for the close in fight.

The above implies that HMGs should only fire for 3, 4, 6 minutes in the long range window. Regardless of the amount of time attackers linger there. That window is 200 to 250m wide, if you don't fire at all beyond 500m.

Attackers can make 50m per minute pushing but using advance, without getting tired. If they do that, the pacing is still low, meaning you do not need or want every HMG firing continually throughout the long range window.

If they advance only 25m per minute, they can spend 8 to 10 minutes in the long range window. You only want to be firing half that time, even only a third of the time for lower ammo MG types.

Firing time is not scarce in these attacks. Ammo efficiency matters. Do not just push the trigger down and hold it there - that shoots the ammo too soon, while the attacker is still too far to hurt permanently.

You only want to do that if he tries to cross the range window at a dead run - only in that case is the time spent in the long range window shorter than the ammo you want to spend there. And you will cut him up so bad if he does run, the same issue will arise for the part of his force that doesn't break.

If he uses advance etc, then you can still pick shots at long range. But pick them. Choose a unit that you expect to be important to the overall attack, and hammer it until it breaks - while staying under the overall ammo usage per MG, above. Realistically, that means an HMG can only pick 1-2 targets to hit in the long range window, not matter how many present themselves.

If you want to hurt a big mass of infantry at long range, call the arty. MGs are for slowing them at long range, or picking key units to remove from the force.

Once they get to the medium range window this changes. Now you can "fire for effect" - in the 150m to 250m range window, or 200m to 300m if you are worried he will spot you soon and call down mortars or other HE overwatch etc.

You can fire until ammo counters hit 20 in that range window. For typical HMGs, that means 6, 7, 8 minutes of fire. That may seem high for such a narrow range, but you will get targets. The nearest attacker gets hurt and the next one is 50m farther. You pick up extra minutes as their pile forward, it takes time for the back guys to get there, etc.

6 to 8 minutes of HMG fire can seriously mess up infantry in the open at 200-250m ranges. Concentrate the fire in this range window, on units, and in time on each (multiple shooters etc).

When ammo hits 20 or less, go to a 100m covered arc. You can hide the minute you do this. If the enemy doesn't have spots yets, this means he doesn't pick them up until somebody steps into the FPF zone. Where you will still have ammo.

The effect you want is, as soon as he gets close enough for full IDs and expects to start shooting back, the firing stops without anyone actually being seen. He can rally at that point if he wants to (and you don't have other units to help etc). When he comes closer, you hit him close in, one more time.

An alternate "drill" is to pull out around the 20 ammo mark. This needs the right set up locations, ones that can break LOS with a short movement. It would work best with a squad infantry force, perhaps in a different bit of cover.

Again he finds the shooting stops. When he closes, the MGs might be there with 20 ammo each, or they might be gone, or their squad infantry supports might be there, or might be nearby but not in the same spot, etc.

Infantry can advance across open ground using the proper procedures. Those include using every scrap of cover etc. The defenders do face a fire discipline dilemma, and cannot expect to stop any strength of attack with only modest forces by just depressing their triggers continually. But defenders have tactics as well, and can mess up attackers in the open regularly. As well as slowing them down by factors of 4.

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This is a nice how to use a mg guide, but it is not easy to bring this in practise. A good attacker can easily pin down a mg even if they are just sound contacts. Since in cmbb sound contacts can duck, you can methodically use long mg fire to fire in suspected places and watch if the sound contact goes down. Put another mg on it and you can pin him effectively or reduce his rate of fire significantly.

To counter this an defender can fire from angles or use keyholed positions, but then you can fire only a short amount of time during which the attackers cross the keyhole envelope.

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Since in cmbb sound contacts can duck, you can methodically use long mg fire to fire in suspected places and watch if the sound contact goes down. Put another mg on it and you can pin him effectively or reduce his rate of fire significantly.

To counter this an defender can fire from angles or use keyholed positions, but then you can fire only a short amount of time during which the attackers cross the keyhole envelope.


Attacker MG fire will hopefully be out of range - you're opening up at 500m, so it is unlikely that an MG could advance to 250m or less in order to offset advantage of cover.

In addition, it is to the defender's advantage if the attacker wastes precious infantry squad ammo 'looking' for a couple of MGs - it means that the infantry's notorious lack of ammo depth will make them falter as they begin to face your MLR.

By the way, JasonC, I used many of your attacking over open ground tips, and they have improved my attack enormously. I now simply won't advance unless I can do so with a 'Move' command. Thanks!

By the way, if anyone wants to play a scenario that kind of depicts what JasonC is talking about here, try out 'Defense of Verkhne-Golubaya' - it serves as a very good primer for these kinds of tactics.

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There is another point I was thinking about recently. Everyone seems to be differentiating Manoeuvre and attritionist strategy, but I think this is an incorrect concept. I will explain.

Often, people who consider themselves 'Manoeuvre' strategists fall into just rushing units down a flank and so on, and running into defences which seriously weaken their own forces. They then attempt to flank, but flanking should not be an end in itself, as many Manoeuvre thinkers seem to think. Instead, flanking should be an attempt to make an frontal attack easier, or to slowly roll up the OPFOR's army.

However, all Manoeuvre warfare will fail unless the use of Attritionist style is made central. Any unexpected, flank breakthrough will still meet some form of resistance at some point, so firepower in the Manoeuvre force must therefore be overwhelming to achieve a fast and effective breakthrough.

The upshot of all this is that there is no distinction between Manoeuvre and Attritionist strategy. However, there are far too many strategists calling themselves Manoeuvre users when in fact they are just reckless and bad at looking after their units. Too often, flanking is pursued as an end in itself - people think "If only I can flank the enemy, I will automatically win." This is obviously a fallacy, and a skilled defender will quickly tear such a player apart. This, however, doesn't tear apart the illusion of the Manoeuverist that they were simply unlucky that time.

In short, feel free to flank people, but don't forget that flanking is a means to an end - the means to the eradication or routing of an enemy force. Flanking should never be pursued as some kind of seperate tactic, or as the defining nature of a campaign; it should be used to support and, hopefully, ease an attritionist strategy on it's way.

Just my two cents, anyway:)

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I think is quite well possible to combine the attritionist and the manoeuver strategy. Flanking does not have to include rushing or smoke screens. Using mg's and AT guns during attack one can 'pin' the opponent or restrict his movement and hinder reinforcing the exposed flank.

Because of this it is there is no need for rushing and one can do the company advance.

If the opponent tries to manoeuver to face the treath he will lose his carefully prepared defensive positions. You can pin the reinforcements with your mg's and tanks that are rushed in to oppose the flanking will be dealed with by your AT guns.

If he does not do that you just roll him over and win

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I find this to be a very interesting thread, not surprisingly since Jason C started it.

As a starting CM player I always "rushed" to the flags and squatted on it with whatever I could find in QB meetings. This works great against the AI but is disastrous against a good human - now my QB's vs my usual opponent are like boxing matches, waiting for the other guy to move so that you can make a deadly counter-strike while he is exposed.

To me the real issue isn't infantry vs infantry attacks. The real issue is that infantry just isn't very powerful in CM terms, just like in real life. I learned this the hard way over many CM battles, but it was driven home hard when a single T34 (conscript, even) with cannister shot (case to the Russians) just leveled an entire company of infantry in "our backs to the volga". It was a slaughter, one I do not want to repeat again.

If you get beyond like 1940-1 when there wasn't too much direct fire HE flying around (except for the Russians, who were way ahead on this front all the way until the end) infantry is usually cowering and waiting to take objectives until the battlefield is cleared of enemy guns, tanks, MG's, and bigger mortars with LOS. The real battle for superiority is over these weapons and infantry plays a relatively minor, supporting role in the calculation of supremacy, but in the end they are the ones that move onto the objective after the enemy force has been destroyed (in line with Jason's thesis).

The place where infantry is a critical component of the defense and on the attack is in the city where LOS is short and SMG's and squad AT weapons (including zooks and shrecks) make up the backbone of the defense. In this setup the attackers' typical advantage in arty and tanks is much less compelling because of short LOS and then all of the infantry vs infantry tactics become crucial.

But to me in a typical game the infantry is sneaking around out of cover waiting for the "big" weapons to clear the field before attacking. At that point, the remaining enemy defenders open up but they are typically routed by direct HE fire and gunfire since the defending tanks and AT guns have been destroyed and it is all over but the shouting.

It is rare to see an infantry assault against infantry. It happens, but only rarely in the CM games I play.

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"there is no distinction between Manoeuvre and Attritionist strategy."

Sure there is. The sound point you could make instead is that attrition strategies can make use of maneuver in search of modest "force multipliers". An attrition strategy wrapper (motto - "odds always win out in the end") uses some maneuver means (motto - "you can get some more odds by killing half the enemy, before fighting the other half").

But it is possible to conduct pure maneuver strategies in CM. They are quite different, you don't try to do the same things. Either can work. I happen to think the attritionist wrapper is sound and the whole approach is more reliable, or requires less in the way of brilliancy or successful anticipation by the commander. But I fully acknowledge that the opposite approach can work.

"flanking is pursued as an end in itself - people think "If only I can flank the enemy, I will automatically win." This is obviously a fallacy."

If you read the maneuverist manuals, you find lots of generalities that say puppies are cute and winning is fun and being smart is useful, and then at some point they must get down to brass tacks and tell you where to actually send various bits of your force. And the answer is, always - flanking is best, penetration is second, frontal attack is worst.

Because the whole intuition behind it is that the enemy is a danger to be avoided, that the idea is always to hit where they are not. The front of the enemy position is considered extremely dangerous - visions of the first day at the Somme. Going straight in is expected to produce an enourmous butcher's bill and to fail more often than not.

The prescribed maneuverist solution is (1) broad front recon to locate enemy weakpoints (2) opportunity-pull maneuvering, where instead of a high level plan pushing units, they follow the leaders who have done the best (3) penetrate as far as possible along the weak axes, fanning out only opportunistically, to kill weak enemies or seize key terrain.

In practice the recon finds the edges of subunits and you go around them. If you find enemy everywhere along the frontage, you default to the number 2, "penetration". You expect he is thin someplace, try to guess where that is, put a heavy-point through that sector as rapidly as possible, then flank enemies from the new configuration that achieves. This is considered risky because it involves any attack on an actual location where there are enemy - even one focused on a single location with high local odds.

Worse that even that is broad front attacking, which is only even allowed if everything else seems impossible. E.g. impassible terrain flanks, high force to space all along the front. Clearly treated as exceptional and expected to be bloody and costly etc. Only to be done at all, ever, for the later opportunities it is expected to create. So say the maneuverist manuals.

The focus is not on annihilating the enemy, by fire or by shock. It is on moving, through locations the enemy does not actually occupy - where he ain't. Fire schemes are meant to further these movements. Local shock is used to overwhelm thin defenders on the path, not because their annihilation is the payoff or goal, but because local shock succeeds in allowing movement over or through thin enough enemies. And maintaining that ability to move is considered vital.

You get around the enemy. Anyone you fight you fight from the sides or rear, not the front. The belief is that he won't be expecting it as much, that his kill sacks face forward. In addition, you want to get onto objectives without physically moving through the same cover as the enemy. If he moves to adapt, you try to hit him as he moves, or paralyze those movements with fire. He is to be rooted in place. Fire lanes cut him up. Only small subunits need to be assaulted (to widen routes etc), and after they are cut off from help.

That is the pure maneuver idea, and it is very different from odds based thinking. There is a hybrid, annihilation battle maneuvering, which sees the eventual goal as destruction of the enemy force, and regards encirclement or flanking as creating favorable conditions for annihilation battle. A thorough version of this wants the enemy attacking to get out of traps he has been caught in by maneuvers like the above, and the annihilation consists in breaking these needed counterattacks.

A less thorough version still consistent with the above is to use local odds shock to complete annihilation of selected portions of the enemy. The break in or flanking creates local odds. The part of the enemy outnumbered by them is destroyed by shock (close attack), as rapidly as possible. Shock is considered dangerous if prolonged or facing anything like "fair" odds. But is considered reasonably safe at high odds for short periods of time, when not delivered from the front etc.

The attritionist attitude is that the ratio of fielded forces is what matters, and anything that helps it is good, anything that hurts it is bad, and in the end achieving a high odds ratio will win the day. But expects to have to exchange off the enemy force, or the portions of it actually dealt with.

Part of my own arguments in favor of attrition thinking is that I do not think the front of the enemy is always the dangerous spot. In fact, I think the relation is often, penetration attempt is the most dangerous, flanking is second most dangerous, and frontal attack on a broad front is the safest.

Because defenders often deploy in depth, and employ traps. Penetration puts the attacker's spearhead in the middle of the enemy formation. Attacking along thin sectors means attacking along a route the defender can leave open deliberately - it conceeds an element of choice of route to the defender. It also brings short range weapons into play. It is easier to make a kill sack deep along a chosen route, than to spread concentrated firepower across an entire wide front, at long range, against superior odds.

An in depth defense often has only a thin screen up front. Fighting this screen with a heavy front and a deep formation, the attacker can often achieve high local odds simply by not pressing too hard too fast. And choose his range. The attrition attacker chooses his level of risk in an area by how hard he presses in that area. He simply keeps the range long elsewhere. That is his protection, not lack of defenders opposite or being in an unexpected spot.

An attritionist attacker uses a much more "command push" attack style. Meaning, he pays less attention to the defender's deployment choices and much more to his own desired plan for the battle sequencing, at the outset. He draws the enemy he draws, along his chosen route. He expects to kill off whatever enemy appear along that route. Not rapidly, not before the enemy can react and shift reserves etc. But slowly, deliberately, inexorably.

By dialing down the range at the pace he chooses, and employing every piece of firepower he has, to evaporate the defenders immediately in front of his chosen axis of advance. He wants to slowly transition his firepower emitters through the enemy force, melting everything in their path. He outshoots and outlasts the enemy on the chosen path.

It is quite different and either can work. I happen to think BB and AK infantry is quite good at the second of them, because of its rally power. It takes punishment but recovers. It ia a deep ammo absorber. With proper use of cover, not piling up, deep formations etc, it is quite hard to -destroy- a large body of CM infantry.

Infantry is a key portion of attrition attacks, because it creates the *threat* that forces the enemy to fire and reveal himself. That threat is, if you leave me alone and stay hidden, I will put a large body of infantry in cover at close range from your positions.

Large bodies of infantry at close range have enourmous firepower. Large bodies of infantry in cover require enourmous firepower expenditure to hurt seriously (very high calibers, very large numbers of medium caliber HE, or large numbers of infantry units etc). Defenders can't afford to have a whole company get into the same cover as themselves. To stop it, they have to fire.

When they do, the infantry gets close enough for spots - the other reason it must advance (though a few bits of armor handled aggressively can sometimes perform that part - but they don't create the close threat infantry does). The overwatch deals with heavy weapons, yes. Not always killing them all, sometimes forcing them to back off or go quiet. Then the infantry goes in. Against a smart defense this may be needed several times in succession, so no the fight isn't already decided and over.

To seriously hurt large bodies of attacking infantry, without revealing oneself to the overwatch too soon, defenders want not a thin screen an depth, but a hidden main line of resistence that opens fire together at quite short range. Attrition attack infantry deals with this threat by packet movement tactics - meaning only portions of the force expose themselves at any one time, once the range gets close. They creep from cover to cover, 2 squad a minute. It is slow and predictable, and defenders can drop arty on them if they have it, etc. But it avoids the full MLR mad minute that wrecks a company in the open.

Implicitly, an attrition attack does not regard the front of the enemy position as dangerous. He regards is rear areas as dangerous (because he expects positions in depth), and close range in the open as dangerous. Long range he does not consider dangerous because the enemy has tight ammo limits in long fights, that mean he can't afford to shoot continually at range. If he does, wait and rally and you can attack him easily after. Close range in cover he does not regard as dangerous, because he expects to have odds on the chosen axis, and lots of infantry in cover is quite hard to kill, and he expects to give as good as he gets and exchange off the defenders.

The front of the enemy position is often the safetest place in an attrition attack. Why? Because the enemy there faces the nastiest overwatch threat, and the tightest fire discipline constraints. Shooters don't last there, and must pick their shots with care. To maintain stealth, to make their ammo count.

But an attrition attacker is hitting a place where the enemy is, not where he isn't. The infantry threat is to kill defenders, not to walk into the backfield. They are coming for us, right at us, they aren't stopping for modest threats. They aren't scared into staying in their own patch of trees by our MGs. They come for our patch of trees, even if they have to leave cover to do it. We can't hold our fire and stay stealthy to hide from tanks and FOs and guns, because if we do they will walk right on top of us.

The command push aspect of an attritionist attack is also coordinated with heavy fire support. The barrage - 105mm or larger - hits those woods ahead of the infantry advance. A platoon of tanks dumps in 2-3 minutes of 76mm HE, area fire. The attacker does not need a real time spotting report - nice if he can get it, but not essential. Because the choice of target does not depend on recon. The infantry main body -will- be here by minute 15, whatever the enemy does. Inexorable, not fast.

To Adam - on maneuver uses of infantry, I am fiddling with something along the lines you suggest. But being an inveterate odds seeker, not 1 vet company against 2 green ones with arty. No, 2 vet ones against 1 green one with arty.

German probe, Italy, November 1944. Terrain is 2.5m contours, rural heavy woods large hill light damage. Time dusk, ground wet, weather rain. Defenders have one green US rifle company, 3rd MMG, 1 81mm mortar, and a 155mm FO with 3 TRPs. Attackers have 2 veteran Fusilier companies, 2 81mm mortars, 2 flamethrowers, and an 81mm radio FO.

Notice, you have to do this in the editor. The QB limits the 800 points of Americans to 200 arty, which forbids every serious module they have. (Annoying and silly).

German heavy weapons groups are limited. 2 of them, each with 2 HMGs, 81mm mortar. The radio FO can actually go with the main body, or one of two company main bodies. 6 platoons is enough to do broad front recon. With the company HQs acting as additional platoons within company main bodies. The FTs go with a shock platoon, with the best HQ.

I am finding that LOS is not limited because the hills make long lines, even though the woods cut them up. What LOS is, is very spotty. Some angles there are 350m lines of sight. Others, you can get infantry to woods 50m from the enemy at first LOS. Not remotely everywhere, though.

The Americans can't afford to set up too separated. In practice, their company main body picks an area of defensible terrain that offers some LOS integration ahead of itself - clearings and ridges etc. Attacking that company main body position frontally would be a very unmaneuverist affair. Perhaps doable, but not fast. You can't mass under 155mm threat, right in front. Long range fire can try to draw their MGs and approaches closer in sequence might run them out of ammo and defenders opposite one area. But that is the attritionist version.

To do the maneuverist version, you need to locate that main position and avoid its front. The terrain is extensive and segmented enough that you do get routes that can take a whole company main body that will avoid said front, once you find it. You can try to roll him up from an end. They can't keep firepower integration in all directions.

First thing I noticed so far, though, is that TRPs make decent flank "anchors". A company heading over a particular objective peak found a route to the US right, my first time out, for instance. But 155mm TRP fire then hit that peak. The lead platoon was through and made contact with the US right. But the trailing elements were caught by tree bursts. Not wiped out, but a platoon ragged out and several minutes of delay to support the point. Still possible, I can see. But there are tactics available for both sides.

I wouldn't try it with 1 company but I am confident I can beat that US force with 2. Using veteran infantry in terrain with a maneuver-annihilation strategy. How hard it is depends primarily on how well the 155s dance.


[ April 03, 2005, 12:12 PM: Message edited by: JasonC ]

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two HMGs do NOT rout even a single infantry SQUAD that is under HQ control, until the squad is at around 200 meters & even then only if the HMGs still have enough ammo to have effective burts.

without getting to how to make use of this situation with the other squads and keep running over the HMG section, i will simply point out the following fact: 200 meters in itself is already far far too late to start pinning down parts of a single infantry PLATOON. at 200 meters the HMGs are already spotted and in real practice that equals immediate elimination.

no, the HMG section should have pinned down that entire PLATOON for good already right at the 500 meters. it should do it for COMPANIES.

to me it is obvious that MG suppression model of CM is deeply flawed.

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as to why JasonC fails in the attack i can only guess. i suppose it's some of the following:

1. he accepts the defeat from the very beginning and concentrates the HMG fire on the range when they are already spotted. this is suicidal tactic in real battles.

2. he used the defensive HQ in active role, where as i prevented it from firing, because i was only interested in the HMGs' ability to suppress attacking infantry.

3. intentional bad playing on the attack. e.g. moving the HQ into HMG fire, moving squads that are under concentrated fire, not leaping with squads that are not under concentrated fire etc etc.

4. CM engine did some "bad" dice rolling on the HQ bonuses.

5. he did only isolate tests so that he didn't experience the cumulative burdens of concentrated fire, like ammo hogging, jamming problems, rapid infantry advance.

all this is rather moot. the point is not wether you need one or two weakened rifle platoons to overrun these defences. the point is that the MGs fail 100% in suppressing the infantry even with this ridiculous setting.

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Thanks JasonC, took me a while to read your post:)

Because the whole intuition behind it is that the enemy is a danger to be avoided, that the idea is always to hit where they are not. The front of the enemy position is considered extremely dangerous - visions of the first day at the Somme. Going straight in is expected to produce an enourmous butcher's bill and to fail more often than not.

I would just say on this that because, in CM, there is no logistics - that is, you can't disrupt an enemy's supply, take his capital cities etc., the 'goals' of a maneuver strategy often aren't there. Thus we have to revert to your 'Attrition-maneuverist hybrid' strategy, since in CM it is virtually impossible to win without fighting the enemy.

I agree with you on shifting to an area where the opponent must shift his forward facing setup to meet your flank attack - this is very useful, even if it is rarely pulled off.

If you read the maneuverist manuals, you find lots of generalities that say puppies are cute and winning is fun and being smart is useful, and then at some point they must get down to brass tacks and tell you where to actually send various bits of your force. And the answer is, always - flanking is best, penetration is second, frontal attack is worst.

Because the whole intuition behind it is that the enemy is a danger to be avoided, that the idea is always to hit where they are not. The front of the enemy position is considered extremely dangerous - visions of the first day at the Somme. Going straight in is expected to produce an enourmous butcher's bill and to fail more often than not.

My point was not that flanking was useless, but that all too often it is thought of as the end product - no real thought goes into what the flanking units can realistically achieve once they have flanked the enemy. Of course not everyone is like this, but I have noticed it in a number of games I've played with people.

Good to have an interesting debate:)

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"he accepts the defeat from the very beginning and concentrates the HMG fire on the range when they are already spotted. this is suicidal tactic in real battles."

Not remotely. I fire off the bulk of the ammo before being spotted, at the best ranges I expect to get. One has to calculate the approximate firing time available at the various ranges, which requires a little gauging of the speed of the attack. That is all. I can deliver the ammo before they get more than a sound contact, easily. Or I can deliver most of it and keep a reserve for close defense - my preference. (If I had squad infantry with them too, as in my first larger scale test, the HMGs take the longer range window and the squads take the closer one). Far from "accepting the defeat", I broke every attack you prescribed, successfully.

"he used the defensive HQ in active role, where as i prevented it from firing, because i was only interested in the HMGs' ability to suppress attacking infantry."

Once all the others are dry, sure I used the HQ, always inside 100m. My MGs co-locate with infantry - whole platoons of it, not just HQs. Or the infantry goes ahead of them, to prevent enemy infantry from getting close to an MG(sometimes, anything but a sound contact) without passing by them. Surely you don't think the 1 SMG and 2 rifles are responsible for the overall result. The point is merely that entirely broken units can be overrun by 4 men. I show the attack has utterly failed by overrunning the busted remnants with a solitary HQ. If you give the routed guys 2 hours to rally, give the defenders 2 hours to bring up more ammo, or allow that they could have a single half squad to finish off the routed survivors wallowing 80m in front of the dry MGs.

"intentional bad playing on the attack. e.g. moving the HQ into HMG fire"

I intentionally used the attack drills you specify, to show that there is more involved in successful packet attack tactics that using advance, or advance and hide, or short advance and hide. That your belief to the contrary is based on a stupid AI trick of running the defenders out of ammo before you get close enough to be seriously hurt.

I know perfectly well how to attack over open ground. I wrote the book on it, for BB and AK infantry, in case everybody forgot. I've posted elaborate attack drills showing how a single platoon KOs a single HMG in a building at the end of a logn stretch of mostly open ground with minimal casualties. But I also use all available cover, reply fire, switch off the lead in response to fire taken, and do not remotely claim that three squads are enough against 2 HMGs. They aren't. A platoon against one, sure. A company against two, sure. A weakened platoon against two, no siree bob, I've demonstrated it is easy to break that as the defender with proper fire tactics.

"moving squads that are under concentrated fire"

They generally pin. Not an issue.

"not leaping with squads that are not under concentrated fire"

Sure I do. But with only 3 squads against 2 MGs, these do not create any threat. Oh no, 2 squads will reach the open 100m away from my 2 dug in HMGs! Whatever shall I do? I must switch targets immediately to stop the blighters now! Not.

I hammer whoever I want to hammer, because without that one, the others aren't going to outshoot me. And they aren't going to make it all the way, before I hammer the one I was after. If they come on, the HQ can't keep them all in range - and also broadcasts which unit is the HQ (the one half way between, duh). If they leave the rear squad I can write it off, it won't rally.

"CM engine did some "bad" dice rolling on the HQ bonuses"

Nope, to avoid messing up the generality test results I ensured no HQ had +2 bonuses in anything.

"he did only isolate tests so that he didn't experience the cumulative burdens of concentrated fire, like ammo hogging, jamming problems, rapid infantry advance"

I tested repeatedly under different attack drills, including every one you specified, different rates of advance and the required response from the HMGs as to proper fire discipline and pacing, experienced 4 jams on one MG in one of the tests, had some with twice the ammo of the other at various times because of things like that. The HMGs just aren't vulnerable when commanded correctly. The claim is simply wrong.

"the point is not whether you need one or two weakened rifle platoons to overrun these defences."

Then you should conceed the point, that in fact a pair of HMGs are not vulnerable to a single rifle platoon. I will then point out that a platoon per MG is attacker odds of 4-6 to 1 in point terms (depending on the MG model and platoon type etc).

I've already shown how it scales, with proper defender tactics and attackers just mindlessly pushing and expecting to run over the defense, with my 2 companies broken by 4 MGs and a platoon example. With proper *firepower* tactics, those two companies ought to be able to close. But not by just absorbing everything and walking over the defense.

"the MGs fail 100% in suppressing the infantry"

I deny it. I can slow their movement by a factor of 4, and break them outright if they don't have high enough odds. Next I just put enough MGs and platoons on the frontage, that the required odds are a *lot* of men. If they then try to pack in that large number of men on the narrow frontage, I say "battery, fire mission, enemy in the open". And their losses rise in direct proportion with their density.

2 MGs alone will not stop a company. But a typical integrated defense of MGs, squad infantry, and any kind of fire support, can make it as expensive as you please. You want attacks to be outlawed by a few MGs alone, and there is no reason to believe that is accurate.

Attackers avoid such open ground attacks if they can, for excellent reasons. The risk of loss if the whole thing fails is very high. The payoff even when they succeed is pyrrhic. Defenders don't do it just once, tactically. They do it over and over in layered defenses, operationally. And attackers cannot afford to pay steep prices for lousy results repeatedly.

Any modern army with all the trimmings can destroy any tactical enemy position, if it is willing to spend what it takes. But if it takes them too much compared to the defense, the attackers "go broke" first.

Average losses in a US division in a day of combat were 25 men. In periods of heavy fighting, 100 to 300. The nastiest fighting of the war reached losses of 50 men per battalion per day, but 10 was more typical, even in heavy combat. The up units are losing more, but not an order of magnitude more. You can't pay 50 men for every field; you'd run out of men long before the enemy runs out of fields.

So they look for better ways. When the commander decides it looks too expensive and it isn't all that important anyway, he preserves his force and calls it off. Not because everybody would die in a deterministic failure if he continued - though they might, and it is not a risk worth running (and did happen occasionally - did in my tests, too). But because he can think of better things to do with a battalion of good infantry than launch them at an intact defense over a km of open ground. (Night. A seam between units, or of less open terrain. Infiltration. Arty prep. Tank support. Etc etc.).

[ April 03, 2005, 03:11 PM: Message edited by: JasonC ]

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In CM, there are ammo limits and repositioning of tactical reserves. There are also often outsized VP awards for possession of insignificant bits of terrain. The reason maneuvering around someone rarely makes a decisive difference is formations tends to have at least some depth (real ones had far more, actually), flexible, and integrated. Occasionally terrain my cut them up enough that small scale maneuver makes a difference.

But the reason you can't win without fighting is, nobody ever wins anything without fighting. On the back of cereal boxes, in propaganda posters, in maneuverist manifestos and get rich quick through no money down real estate scams, mebe, not in real combat. It is a garden variety big whopping lie, marketing copy, a blatant attempt to make the other guy in a debate sound like a butcher because he faces the most elementary facts. It is not something that "of course", you "be able to accomplish", "if only" CM (or anything else) "properly" allowed for maneuverist effects yada yada. Tell the Spartans.

The kind of maneuvering that can and does matter in CM is the annihilation battle kind, the achieving local odds kind. Which is also, just incidentally, what the German sort in WW II actually aimed at. (They didn't believe the marketing copy, either, and tried to kill the enemy force same as everybody else). Russian maneuver was always thought of as a force multiplier, to the point of spreadsheet level accounting for exact ratios of weapon systems on breakthrough sectors, etc.

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Adam - I am not impressive by Mosier. He starts with half truths that show a piece of conventional wisdom is wrong - fair enough. Then he substitutes some tendentious whopper pulled out of his backside, or some coulda woulda shoulda or might have been. Without detailed analysis of what was actually going on.

He is in fact trading on the shallowness of journalistic and propagandistic accounts of major wars. He debunks them, but fails to leave the same level, to an analytical one. He is interested in paradox and shock value of claims, not in finding the truth about warfare or history.

Sometimes he is frankly incoherent. He notices that there is no maneuverist master plan in a modern sense, then tries to overlook that fact that the maneuverism actually being applied is working splendidly, while the copybook version has never accomplished a thing. Or claiming armored cars won the campaign in France. Sometimes just plain silly, saying anything to be saying something that hasn't been said before.

I can't recommend any of his stuff. If you've never doubted conventional stories about the world wars, OK, they can start you thinking about them. So will reading any good operational level history that has real detail in it, if you just pay attention to what is obviously working and what isn't, for the various sides.

Free your mind of cant, runs the proverb.

[ April 03, 2005, 03:44 PM: Message edited by: JasonC ]

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I think he vastly overstates his case, particularly on infantry tactics questions. He also downplays how much the allies learned over the course of the war.

The Germans were smarter about heavy arty early, certainly. The Brits thought shrapnel was important pre-war - completely wrong. Then they had trouble ramping the home front side. As a result, they had more light 18 pdrs firing ineffective shell at midwar, than the Germans did. That is all true. The French 75 had similar limitations. The Germans also used light guns but included 105s in every infantry division from the start of the war.

But these did not represent the whole allied arty arm in the second half of the war, by a long stretch. The difference in the field caliber arty mattered less, and the heavy stuff more. The Germans had 210s in quantity, which were extremely nasty. The French had 155s, and Brits a wide variety of heavier stuff. All of these were very effective against manned trenches. Only the Russians were still underpowered in heavy arty in the second half of the war. (They were limited in heavy shell production).

But the Brits were the ones who led the way on trench mortars and light machineguns (with the Lewis). They got quite good at trench raid tactics. People talk about strosstruppen tactics, but the basics of packet movement were actually pioneered far earlier by the French, in 1915. Operationally, one of the masterpieces of the war was the Brusilov offensive in 1916, which employed the short barrage, attacking with surprise from approach trenches, etc. Smashed the Austrians, as big a win as the 1918 stuff. And of course the Brits also pioneered tanks.

Stats on German effectiveness are also misleading, because it wasn't a war between Germany and France plus Britain. Austria was getting clocked. The Germans had a string of offensive victories in the east where they had a clear firepower superiority over the Russians and all the minor powers. In the west they were on the defensive except for a few months at Verdun and the 1918 push. That inflated their exchange ratios.

They were good certainly, but they were also losing in the long run and knew it. If you read Falkenhayn, he knows exactly when the bleed rate means the army won't be able to hold, even though the figures make that a year and a half off. This is largely a function of shell output compared to enemy population base.

Germany was a major industrial power, so it had lots of shell firepower, and whoever it threw that at bled profusely. But it was not a equal giant in population, so when other major industrial powers threw even larger amounts of metal at them, they bled faster than they could stand.

The real wild card in WW I, the one power that did not fufill its military potential on the obvious economic scores etc, was Russia. Which fought weaker than it had to. They had outsized population to firepower, which meant a blood costly approach to an already very blood costly war. But if you look at where they were in 1916, say, there is no military reason they couldn't have stayed in. The political collapse is underdetermined. It could easily have been Austria that collapsed first, for example.

Interestingly, Falkenhayn predicted the Russian collapse well beforehand. Not just a matter of inciting things - which the Germans were hip deep in incidentally. But expecting the pain their army could inflict to destroy the country politically. Brusilov still got a ton more out of them than Falkenhayn was expecting, though.

That is all up at the grand strategy level. German "play" was clearly poor, there. E.g. the unrestricted submarine warfare decision was a reckless gamble that they knew was reckless at the time. It was crazy to think having the US in against them would be balanced by sinking some of Britain's supplies.

They were grasping at straws, frankly. Didn't see how to win otherwise. But that was poor strategy - you don't make things worse because you don't like how good they look. And in fact, Russia dropping out not long after that decision, would have helped them vastly more if the US wasn't in.

Anyway, back down to the level of military tactics. The Germans perfected the defense in depth strongpoint defense system, and strosstruppen tactics on the offensive, but that one was a mix of components others had already developed. Packet movement was French. Close infiltration and no long prep was Russian (they didn't have the heavy arty). Limited visibility attacks with grenade men leading was British trench raid tactics. Pushing MGs forward, lavish trench mortar equippage, likewise. What the Germans added was systematic reinforcement of success without regard for flanks, during the break in phase.

See, the tendency was to try to widen any break in laterally, to help out the units on either side. A few MGs held up reinforcements in NML. An attack that succeeded only in places seemed doomed - reinforcements are stopped by hold out MGs and a barrage, a few intrusions are targeted by enemy arty and reserves, reserves move much faster in the enemy trench system, etc. The solution seemed to be (others thought), widen the break in. Attack on a wider front so the reserves are overtaxed in the middle of it. Clear out the holdouts, to let everyone forward all along the line. Guys that made it to the enemy trenches, it seemed, could help by bombing (grenading) up and down the line.

But this amounted to directing the most successful portions of the attack at the positions that had held out. It sent the men farthest forward at strong positions that had resisted direct attack. It dissipated force that had reached the enemy position, without penetrating deeply. When it worked, the enemy typically still got a reserve formation in front of the wider break in, as a second line etc.

So, instead, drive as fast as possible into the depth of the enemy position. Race into the enemy trench system with grenade parties. Hold the junctions, gum up reserve repositioning. The follow on waves aren't wide front, they are narrow columns behind the points that succeeded. They pile in and keep pushing. The first defenders to reach the area are exchanged off in the fight inside the enemy trenches. The intermingling of the units makes it hard for the enemy to counter-concentrate with arty, particularly when there a dozens of these local instrusions not 1-2. Do it all in limited visibility - night or morning fog e.g. Put everyone in gas masks. Infiltrating gets a lot easier when visibility is poor (a trench raid tactical point used on a wider scale).

It does produce great confusion. The attackers get all scrambled. But if you have really punched clean through you don't much care.

Still wasn't decisive, no maneuver was. (The biggest and most persistent error the allied commanders made was chasing the illusion of decisive breakthrough, hoping to get it all over with in one big push. That caused no end of pointless orders to continue attacks that no longer made operational sense in attrition terms). Operational breakthroughs were not impossible in WW I - that is one of the great myths about the war. They happened, repeatedly. They just were not decisive. The defender has better operational mobility, up at the whole army scale.

Intact rail lines etc. Don't have to haul heavy arty and its ammo across 10 miles of blasted moon scape with horse teams. Without heavy arty on the other side of the old front line, the first serious new position stops you - because the defenders have it. By the time you've repaired routes across the old scar tissue area and brought up the guns and ammo, the enemy is dug in again. You make 50 miles, you don't win the war.

So the war was going to be decided by attrition. Tactics move the rate of attrition, that is their only importance. Decision by maneuver was not possible. (Even the big victories in the east were annihilation battle affairs, not razzle dazzle).

Because that is the reality of the thing, it is pointless to call people names for failing to invent decisive maneuver warfare. Tanks and strosstruppen tactics do not produce that. There is back projection involved, as though 1940 were possible in 1918 and if it wasn't achieved it just means the commanders were dumb or something. Which is horsefeathers, the means did not exist and the defender had too many layered, high cards to play.

There was also nothing indecisive about attrition. It is as decisive as hell - a careful choice of words. It just stinks to have to do it, against a strong enemy. If the enemy is good at killing you, you let him win or it costs a ton of dead people to beat him. An unpleasant fact, but a fact.

The Germans were good at killing people and killed a lot. They lost to attrition processes anyway. The particular manner of the defeat owed something to their boneheaded move choices, like sub warfare bringing in the US just before the best event in their favor came along (Russia out, I mean). That was a product of desperation - they didn't see how to withstand the attrition the allies could inflict, longer than the allies could dish it out.

Their best chance would have been to keep the US out, remain on the defensive in the west, fight the Russians hard enough to keep Austria afloat. Then when Russian happens to go first, they are in good shape. Italy could be hurt enough to really keep Austria free of harm and pressure. And half the forces sent west for Ludendorf's "let's run 'em off their feet before the Americans show up" gamble, could have held the west defensively for quite some time. With no American or Russian manpower to worry about, and the political weak link (Austria), safe.

The crisis of the war from the German point of view is reacting to the results of 1916, and the leadership fight that gets Falkenhayn sacked and brings in Ludendorf. The new information in 1916 is that Verdun does hurt the French enourmously, but is expensive. On its own, manageable. Then the Brits start the Somme. First day, the Germans think they've won. Then the Brits keep it up for six months. Verdun offensive is shut down to get reserves for it. Then Brusilov hits, and clocks the Austrians.

They think they will face massive attritionist battles against all three major powers indefinitely. Requiring massive reserves of manpower just to keep up front line strength, with no operational reserve to speak of and no remaining initiative. They don't see any realistic way of stopping each of the allies from hitting them that hard, army to army group scale, every year on ground of their choosing. Every one of them is going to eat half a million men.

Falkenhayn proposes the sub warfare gamble - which is clearly a mistake. Ludendorf says oh no, we can't bet the country on that. Falkenhayn says there is only one other solution - grant the people a constitution (change the government to a limited monarchy, contemplate a political settlement of the war without victory, which they agreed would led to the fall of the government as it then existed). None of that now. So Ludendorf rides in saying he won't need to gamble and can win the war militarily without bringing in the Americans.

Then as soon as he is in and has consolidated power, he goes ahead and orders the sub warfare gamble anyway, and brings in the Americans. The German pols can't win - they choose the generalissimo who says he will keep the US out, then he switches the policy on them anyway. That is the war loser, right there. All the good fortune in Italy and in Russia in 1917 can't make up for it.

Since the US being in means the attrition war is completely unwinnable in the long run, they double up and gamble on decisive breakthrough using the east front forces shifted west, before the US arrives. It clocks the Brits and gets a breakthrough, but breakthroughs aren't decisive and they've bet the farm on a horse that can't finish the race.

Americans are in by the time it all peters out. The Brits and French have tanks in the thousands. There are 2 million Americans in France by the fall. It's over.

The army starts to come apart at the front when hit by concentrated tanks. Seeing no way to eventual victory is the real morale problem. And attrition is continuing apace, with no way to match the allied increase in trench strength the Americans bring about. The vets are fought out from the spring attacks. Front line strength is plummeting, they can't fed the attrition monster fast enough to hold the line anyway.

Anyway, that is probably more WW I history than you wanted and at too large a scale. But it is the sort of thing I mean by trying to get at the historical truth of the matter, regardless of ideologies or pet theories or previous conventional wisdom about what did happen or should have happened or who was supposedly stupid not to have already invented WW II etc.

[ April 03, 2005, 09:04 PM: Message edited by: JasonC ]

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to return to the topic of CM-sized attritionist advances, it strikes me that the majority of CM scenarios are a bit on the short side for the tactics you recommend.

I may be too gentle with my men, but in infantry v infantry advances, I find that 10min is a minimum for getting up close and personal. That's fine if he only has one line of defense, but of course he has two if not three in most cases, and there is usually some form of HE slowing you down at some point.

I am not suggesting that your approach is unworkable, just that the standard 25-30 turn scenario can leave you with no flags and half of his defenders still picking their noses.

One concern is that if you try to parlay a big force advantage into quicker movement (ie, he has made three thin lines, so you try to crunch the first one quickly with your >3:1 odds), you make yourself more vulnerable to nasty surprises.

For example, if you start a slow and steady advance over the open ground and find less incoming than expected, you start to up the pace. Maybe you keep half of your guys moving at once instead of a quarter. Then on any given turn he can decide to open up with the rest of his force that weren't at the back of the map after all, chewing up uncomfortably many of your previously relaxed movers.

The main question is, can you safely convert firepower into speed across open terrain? I find it too risky and usually opt for slow and steady (thus acheiving the outstanding result of 4 draws from 5 matches in ROWV!).


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unfortunately i don't have much time to discuss the various points you have risen with your input. my interest lies in the MG infantry suppression model of CM, not so much in the scenario i described or the reasons why we get different results in running it.

i gather that we both agree that a section of two HMGs is capable of suppressing a rifle squad on open flat terrain, if the HMG section has plenty of ammo left and manages to keep up concentrated fire for at least 2 minutes without disturbances. i can't run tests right now, but i have the impression that one further requirement is that range is not greater than around 300 meters.

do you agree with this?

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Originally posted by undead reindeer cavalry:

two HMGs do NOT rout even a single infantry SQUAD that is under HQ control, until the squad is at around 200 meters & even then only if the HMGs still have enough ammo to have effective burts.

without getting to how to make use of this situation with the other squads and keep running over the HMG section, i will simply point out the following fact: 200 meters in itself is already far far too late to start pinning down parts of a single infantry PLATOON. at 200 meters the HMGs are already spotted and in real practice that equals immediate elimination.

no, the HMG section should have pinned down that entire PLATOON for good already right at the 500 meters. it should do it for COMPANIES.

to me it is obvious that MG suppression model of CM is deeply flawed.

It does seem weak certainly.

The rate of fire is also TACAI controlled. Realistically, it should open fire for destructive effect with expenditure of ammo against vulnerable targets, and then switch to shorter bursts against many targets once the enemy is pinned.

Not sure if Jason's new attritionist theory should base itself on the game in that case. Using D Day beaches as an example is odd also. I guess since this is 'Tips'n'Tricks' he is showing people how to take advantage of the non-realistic game effects.

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Well, for a nice maneuverist approach to strategy, I would recommend the book:

Strategy by B. H. Liddel-Hart, ISBN 0452010713.

It doesn't really cover tactical level games like CM, but makes for really good reading.

From the publisher's blurb:

"Liddell Hart stressed movement, flexibilty, surprise. He saw that in most military campaigns dislocation of the enemy's psychological and physical balance is prelude to victory. This dislocation results from a strategic indirect approach."

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What do you think of Mosier's conclusion that the Allies overstated German casualties and understated Allied casualties, particularly the French? Doesn't this call into question who really "won" these battles, to some extent? I agree that in the end the Germans were doomed to lose once unrestricted sub warfare came in and they didn't move fast enough to knock out Russia and concentrate on France / Britain. He also makes the case that many of the "victories" claimed by the Allies weren't really much of a victory, because they didn't achieve the high ground or critical terrain. I am interested in your opinion on that, as well.

In his WW2 book the blitzkrieg myth he also says that the French fought hard at Gambloux (sp?) and then lost because the British quit the field of battle. This is an interesting review on the Battle of France but I have seen a lot of mentions of that tank battle recently and seems relatively underappreciated.

Back to the original thread of this post I am not going to argue with anyone's view of attrition vs maneuver or the relative power of MG's except to say that infantry isn't the queen of battle in CM and if the enemy has unsuppressed heavy weapons with direct fire HE or MG's then it really doesn't matter what you do with infantry because it is not going anywhere against a competent opponent. It is mainly used after the battle is decided by the bigger crewed weapons in a "mop up" role. The major exception is city terrain where infantry is in its element and it is mainly a bloody infantry on infantry process to win block by block. The Russians have the major direct fire HE on the SU 122 and SU 152 and they have armor to "mix it up" with infantry defenders but other than that armor and arty really don't play as critical a role.

This was a very interesting thread!

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