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JasonC scenario critique


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I copied this out of the traffic accident masquerading as a thread, since I think it is an interesting discussion (must be, I participated in it).

SPOILER ALERT!!!!!

Originally posted by JasonC:

[sNIP]

I'll comment on a couple of other scenarios. (Note, all this is spoiler stuff). These are not the worst, they are the first in my directory. The problems they have are not all caused by the cause above, let alone by actual pro German sympathy, let alone by such sympathy motivated by active support for Nazi politics. They have problems nevertheless. I am not trying to pick on these in particular. I could go through my scenario directory and find similar comments to make about a solid half of the scenarios in there.

20km to Targul etc. Unplayable. The reason is giantism and uber-armor love. The Russians get 5 Pe-2 and 6 Sturmovik aircraft. The Pe-2s each drop half a dozen 500 lb bombs. The Germans get to try to stop those with 4 medium Flak guns on map. The Germans get a dozen Tigers, most vet and some crack, and 6 88 Flak. The Russians get 80 tanks.

Yes I said 80 tanks. Half of them are clay pigeons in a field this uber-ed. The other half are split between T-34/85s, and every vehicle the man could think of. KV-85s, IS-1s, IS-2s, SU-152s. You can tell the author didn't know the different between an ISU and an SU because he would have used ISUs if he did.

It is a Panzerblitz game, with every counter turned into about 5 CM tanks. Utterly unplayable. Tactics, completely falsified and irrelevant. Tanks start or enter in LOS of half a dozen major enemy AT shooters, and die as fast as triggers can be pulled.

When you were 10, you wanted to have fights like this to use every plastic tank you owned. It is just comical as a historical scenario. I don't doubt some have enjoyed it anyway, just as some enjoy shooting off SturmTiger ammo, or 14 inch naval artillery from CMBO.

21st Army Counterattacks. A vastly better scenario, nearly an historical one, and close enough to be playable. Still suffers from historical tactic and equipment misunderstandings, but in relatively minor ways. Backs into uber-ed German armor without really intending to, as I will explain.

Thinks it has to include planes, one of the easiest mistakes. Russians get 2 I-16, Germans get a Stuka. This is a largely infantry fight, and they are out of place and overpowered.

There are essentially no 81-82mm mortars, either side. Designer just doesn't understand their role or deployment and so left them out. This benefits the Germans, because they are defending, dug in with trenches, and using towed guns to knock out pre-war model, light Russian armor. 82mms are the Russians PAK pinner of choice, they aren't in the OOB. Try pinning a 37mm PAK in a trench with the 45mm on a BT before it hits you.

Both sides get enough arty, maybe too much, of the off map variety. It makes for a powerful German edge, because they have more responsive 105s and trench cover, the Russian stuff is lighter, less responsive, and they are attacking. But that is a realistic enough edge - just a bit outsized for the infantry forces involved.

There, the problem is the Russians have to attack with close to even infantry odds. Initial odds are 3 companies to 2, each gets another as reinforcement.

Partially making up for this in balance terms but detracting from historical problems and tactics, the Germans don't have nearly enough HMGs as they would for a defense of this scale. The reason is, the designer just trusts the templates and put in companies. Which get 2 MG34s each. He leaves it at that, not noticing half the battalion's HMGs are in its weapons company, and would be present precisely in such a dug-in, positional defense.

The Russians get fairly numerous light armor, but as all know that is pretty useless when the other guy has sufficient towed guns. The Germans get half a dozen, plenty. Without weapons on the Russian side optimized to take them out. The Russians get no 76mm guns themselves. Nor do they get any 76mm armed tanks, no thicker mediums-heavies etc.

The Germans get 2 StuG Bs, as reinforcements. Historical enough but likely to face at least towed 76mm if not actual mediums or heavies. Instead, they become uber-StuGs, simply because the largest AT weapon included on the Russian side is the 45mm, with its early war undermodeled ammo. These have no prayer against the front of a StuG B (50mm). And not much against its sides, frankly (need very flat angle with the early war crappy ammo).

Net result - instead of historical Russian tactics, even with the weaknesses of their light armor and less responsive indirect artillery, facing realistic German advantages of good artillery direction and excellent MGs well dug in, the Russians are neutered in pure armor war terms, lights dying to guns without recourse and the StuGs killing anything they look at as soon as they appear. This is a false tactical impression, unintentionally created simply by editing out 2 essential items in the Russian tactical "kit" - the towed 76mm ATG and the 82mm mortar.

Overall, it is a close attempt at a historical scenario and a pretty good job by the standards one can expect. But ignorance of Russian tactics still manages to create a stacked battle.

Between Don and Volga - this one took a lot more work and has an historical thesis and task. But it misunderstands force mixes, and skews them in the predictable ways. The map is relatively nice - open steppe dotted with rocky mounds - though it would work better with gentle slope setting. The Russian defensive positions are cartoonish and doomed, largely through ignorance again. They get too much good armor as a balance, then the Germans get too much quality AT stuff to unbalance it back.

More specifically, armor focus is a big problem here. The author thinks everybody fought on the steppe armored. The German force looks like TacOps, not 1942 Russia. They have 35 armored vehicles for 4 platoons of infantry. They have 5 different types of medium tanks. The Russians have 4 infantry platoons and 11 tanks - this is supposed to be a defense on the approaches to Stalingrad.

They also get 9 bunkers, which are cartoon targets for the German armor, since 3 have infantry guns and 6 have only MGs. They hide at first but in locations with wide LOS - the minute they open, a German tank will KO them with a firing slit penetration. Russian tank hunters with molotovs only wait hiding too far from the roads to reach across them - more cartoon enemies.

Bigger problem is the uber-ness of the German armament mix. The Russians have 1 KV, which in mid 1942 might be important. But the Germans are given, count this - 5 Pz IV longs, 2 StuG longs, 2 long 75 or 76 towed, 2 75L24 with abundant HC (1 without), and 2 50L60 with T ammo (1 without, and 3 short 50). They also get FW-190 air support, and not 1 but 2 Me-110s, the biggest air strike available.

Now, the designer probably thinks all the long 75 stuff is reasonable, since this is late summer 1942 and those are production vehicles in that era. But in fact, half the German force had long 75 only by the time of Kursk. In late 1942, a third would be pushing it, and most of those were Marders. Production was low compared to fleet size, and losses were low. Fleet mix therefore seriously lagged current types. The weapon mix he gave them would be about correct for the following year.

The Russians are given 10 T-34s - way too many for a static defense like this. The result is an armor heavy clash. Where the Russians really had 11 KVs or T-34s in mid 1942, the Germans would be in trouble tactically, particularly trying to attack. The Russians would also have 76mm towed, which would hole all the German types present. Instead, their tanks get hit by multiple uber-air strikes, then they get dusted by long 75s that match their own numbers.

The Russians are given 8 towed guns plus 3 gun pillboxes. Exactly one of them is a long 76, able to penetrate 50mm of armor at range. The rest are all popguns that can hurt only the halftrack part of the fleet. (Side OK with the 45mm if close, but against 15 tanks, that doesn't happen much or last).

Main problem here is the over focus on armor and the tendency to put in everything in the book. The author probably thought it was fair to hard, because the Russians have so many tanks that can all penetrate the German ones. Just being in a penetrable tank seems like a dangerous and novel experience. Of course the Germans must have had scads of perfectly effective weapons that killed the Russians right back.

In fact, the T-34s were rarer but so were counters to them. The Germans did not have tanks coming out of their ears that easily killed then at a kilometer plus, in this era. Meanwhile the Russians had plenty of stealthy towed guns that could kill the German types at range. The Russian AT defense against this sort of armored incursion, was therefore significantly harder to deal with.

In fact this era ought to be a bit like 1943 for the Russians, sides reversed. Just as PAK40s KO T-34s readily, ZIS-3 penetrated 50mm fronts readily. Just as Tigers were only killable with specialist weapons, rare and not found on the average armor, so KVs were for the Panzer fleet of 1942. But since German technical superiority is assumed, they must have 3 airstrikes 9 long 75s etc, and the Russians one solitary towed 76.

I hope this helps clarify what I am talking about.

I don't imagine for an instant the guy making Between Don and Volga was goose-stepping in his basement. He just bought a line on the war in the east peddled a long, long time ago, and doesn't understand the Russian tactical system.

[ April 16, 2006, 02:19 AM: Message edited by: Andreas ]

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Originally posted by JasonC:

Now to be constructive, how would I fix Between Don and Volga?

Change the map contour to gradual slope.

Reduce the German air support to 1 plane. I'd prefer the FW-190, but if you want to play around with the big 110 strike, fine, leave just one.

Add a 150mm radio FO to the German OOB instead. Much more realistic way to show their on call firepower.

Replace the long 75 StuGs with a pair of Marders, preferably the 76mm model. Much more common way of getting heavy PAK firepower in the era. They can have towed PAK too, but make it more like 1 75-6 and 2 50 with a few T each.

No other long 75 vehicles. Not 5 different types of medium tanks, either. IIIs and IVs with 50L60 and 75L24. Some but not all of the former may have a half dozen T. Some but not all of the latter may have a dozen HC.

Fewer tanks and a lot less light armor, more infantry. The Marders and 2 platoons of Panzers would be plenty. For light armor, a pair of PSWs and one armored infantry platoon would be plenty. You can leave one 81mm halftrack. That cuts the armor fleet in half. Now, up the infantry to a full company in addition to the armored platoon, and a platoon of pioneers. They can have trucks or you can use Sd Kfz if you want them to have better off road ability (since frankly, CMBB trucks are undermodeled, off road). Include the HMGs and 81mm mortars.

Russians - 1 KV and 3 T-34s, not 1 and 10. But 4 towed 76mm. Reduce the 45mm ATGs to 4. As for the bunkers, don't really need them. Leave a couple if you like. Add a few Maxims and place them in trenches on the Kurgans, angled LOS. Double the ATRs to 8. Add mortars, 50mm and 82mm. Give the Russians an FO, 76mm or 120mm. Add a platoon of pioneers and have their demo charges replace the useless molotov tank hunters. Add another infantry platoon too. All the points you didn't spend on bunkers, spend on mines, especially hidden AT.

Now, for the Russian defense scheme, instead of a MG bunker with no AT ability plus an ATR here or there, build stealthy infantry heavy weapons positions. That means Maxim, ATR, mortars in trenches with an HQ, able to put out light fire at 500m without being readily spotted. Closer to the road, put AT mines and squad infantry positions, hiding. Idea is first vehicle hits a mine, pioneers come to clear it, infantry unhides and shoots pioneers, even if they die to tank fire in response.

76mm ATGs go well back, but with long and crossing LOS. 45mm closer, on flanks and angled inward, but behind squad positions not first things encountered. Tanks go well back, idea being to hunt out to fire a bit but able to break LOS again. KV is a roadblock with LOS to everything ahead of road position A, but no LOS to anything not yet that far forward. Idea being to isolate lead vehicle(s), without overwatch back on German side of the map able to see it.

If that forces Marders forward to hunt the KV, 76mm's unhide to kill the Marders before they get to duel the KV.

The Germans should have to stop on the road for mines. FO called arty and 82mm mortar fire should land on them when they stop. German infantry should have to scout ahead in places to see if there is a thick tank lurking (because sending a PSW or SPW will just get it killed by one, or by an expendable 45mm). Maxims and 50mms will go after those, while giving only sound.

Pioneers go back in the balka, reverse slope. Spread 50m apart squad to squad, so their DC ranges overlap, or reach out across the roads. A flanking 45mm might go there too. T-34s reverse into the Balka if they live that long. 1-2 platoons of infantry in the woods or buildings on the low ground, thus nothing hurts them until the German tanks make it all the way through the mines and ATGs etc.

Now you've got a tactical problem. Driving down the road and shooting anything that prematurely shoots at you, won't solve it.

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Originally posted by JasonC:

21st Army Counterattacks. A vastly better scenario, nearly an historical one, and close enough to be playable. Still suffers from historical tactic and equipment misunderstandings, but in relatively minor ways. Backs into uber-ed German armor without really intending to, as I will explain.

As the designer (I believe you are referring to the CD operation of that name which I created), I am going to take the opportunity to comment. I would like to mention in advance a couple of points that I think are required to understand what went on in the design process. But in any case, your post is extremely useful feedback, and I would like to thank you for taking the time to explain at length what is wrong with the scenario.

- '21st Army Counterattacks' is one of the first CMBB scenarios I did, and I was never quite sure it would work the way it was intended. I also did not then know as much about the whole topic as I do now. I see it as a learning exercise.

- At the time it was designed, a code switch made the Stug B impenetrable to the 45mm ATG. I am not sure if I took account of that during the design, it may have been simply me overlooking things. I am also not an armour buff, so it took me a while to learn all these things.

- The scenario has a historical setting in oeprational terms. It is supposed to portray one of the many STAVKA attempts to cut off the advancing German forces in the AGC sector. While it was powerful enough to give the Germans a fright, it failed in the end.

Originally posted by JasonC:

Thinks it has to include planes, one of the easiest mistakes. Russians get 2 I-16, Germans get a Stuka. This is a largely infantry fight, and they are out of place and overpowered.

I agree.

Originally posted by JasonC:

There are essentially no 81-82mm mortars, either side. Designer just doesn't understand their role or deployment and so left them out.

Correct.

Originally posted by JasonC:

This benefits the Germans, because they are defending, dug in with trenches, and using towed guns to knock out pre-war model, light Russian armor. 82mms are the Russians PAK pinner of choice, they aren't in the OOB. Try pinning a 37mm PAK in a trench with the 45mm on a BT before it hits you.

That is correct, and is an error I would not make again.

Originally posted by JasonC:

Both sides get enough arty, maybe too much, of the off map variety. It makes for a powerful German edge, because they have more responsive 105s and trench cover, the Russian stuff is lighter, less responsive, and they are attacking. But that is a realistic enough edge - just a bit outsized for the infantry forces involved.

That is one thing that for an early war scenario I would do again.

Originally posted by JasonC:

There, the problem is the Russians have to attack with close to even infantry odds. Initial odds are 3 companies to 2, each gets another as reinforcement.

I do not think this is completely unrealistic for a late-summer 41 scenario.

Originally posted by JasonC:

Partially making up for this in balance terms but detracting from historical problems and tactics, the Germans don't have nearly enough HMGs as they would for a defense of this scale. The reason is, the designer just trusts the templates and put in companies. Which get 2 MG34s each. He leaves it at that, not noticing half the battalion's HMGs are in its weapons company, and would be present precisely in such a dug-in, positional defense.

Two things - first I agree with you, and maybe today I would do things differently. Secondly, you have to remember that this scenario is just part of a larger battle. It is entirely possible that this is just a secondary effort, and that the heavy weapons company is used elsewhere, or has its own line to cover.

Originally posted by JasonC:

The Russians get fairly numerous light armor, but as all know that is pretty useless when the other guy has sufficient towed guns. The Germans get half a dozen, plenty. Without weapons on the Russian side optimized to take them out. The Russians get no 76mm guns themselves. Nor do they get any 76mm armed tanks, no thicker mediums-heavies etc.

There is a logical disconnect between my previous answer to the HMGs, and the presence of lots of AT. Again, today I would give the Germans less AT. I still would not give the Russians better tanks. I think giving them craptacular light tanks is realistic for the setting, and is a nice tactical challenge for the Russian player.

Originally posted by JasonC:

The Germans get 2 StuG Bs, as reinforcements. Historical enough but likely to face at least towed 76mm if not actual mediums or heavies. Instead, they become uber-StuGs, simply because the largest AT weapon included on the Russian side is the 45mm, with its early war undermodeled ammo. These have no prayer against the front of a StuG B (50mm). And not much against its sides, frankly (need very flat angle with the early war crappy ammo).

Agreed. Clearly a mistake.

Originally posted by JasonC:

Net result - instead of historical Russian tactics, even with the weaknesses of their light armor and less responsive indirect artillery, facing realistic German advantages of good artillery direction and excellent MGs well dug in, the Russians are neutered in pure armor war terms, lights dying to guns without recourse and the StuGs killing anything they look at as soon as they appear. This is a false tactical impression, unintentionally created simply by editing out 2 essential items in the Russian tactical "kit" - the towed 76mm ATG and the 82mm mortar.

In an ideal world the Russians would have the 76mm ATG (I agree they should have the mortars). Just not necessarily in this scenario.

Originally posted by JasonC:

Overall, it is a close attempt at a historical scenario and a pretty good job by the standards one can expect. But ignorance of Russian tactics still manages to create a stacked battle.

That analysis is partially correct, but not the whole story. Part of the stacking was intentional, not for Nazifanboy reasons, but because historically, the attack failed. If everything had been perfect on the Russian side, that would not have been the case, against the opposition they were facing.

But all in all you are correct, and the scenario could be improved. I'll see if I find some time to do that, in between goose-stepping in my basement. ;)

All the best

Andreas

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Originally posted by JasonC:

All fair comments. I do note however that the outcome - attack failed historically - is not sufficient to justify a stacked battle. The designer may not script the outcome. He must leave that to the matched wits of the players, or it isn't strategy. Doesn't mean balance has to be perfect, does mean the designer should emphatically not have an intended winner in mind, for reasons of supposed history, or national bias, or any other reason.

Second, even if the attack failed, I sincerely doubt it failed because the Germans had locally uber armor against crappy undermodeled 45mm ATGs only. One, because the undermodeling of the 45mm is serious, beyond what can be justified by history. Two, because the Russians made lots of attacks like that and the Germans did not remotely have armor at all of them, or anything like all of them.

If a scenario creates the impression that the decisive tactical relationship in era or operational occasion X was mismatch or technical issue Y, when in fact Y did not even obtain, and X was decided by other factor Z, then the designer has simply failed. The whole point is to recreate the tactical dilemmas of the occasion.

In the case of the mid summer Russian counterattacks in the center, crappy armor for the Russians was doubtless one of those reasons - although careful examinations suggests the armor was crappy mostly because it wasn't supplied or maintained, rather than because it was thin or its ammo made out of mud brick. But surely the more basic reasons were (1) good German infantry-artillery cooperation (2) good German infantry heavy weapons, particularly effective on defense (3) green quality of the Russian infantry and especially of its leadership at the time and (4) poor Russian infantry-artillery cooperation.

You won't show that by sending low odds regulars against regulars then given the receiving side unkillable AFVs. Instead you distract from the infantry battle and its issues, and suggest that all fights were decided by technical dominance and armor dominance. Since in fact, in this era, the losing side had the better tanks in gun and armor terms but lost by world record amounts anyway, that is not an accurate impression to leave.

I'd reduce the Russian arty (off map) and perhaps their infantry (or leader) quality, while upping their numbers. I wouldn't improve their tanks. But I would either pull the StuGs entirely, or add 2 long 76mm guns (on map) to the Russian OOB - along with mortars etc. The Germans get more MGs. Because it was much more a matter of the MG34 and the 105mm working on defense, than a matter of 50mm fronts against mudbrick 45mm guns.

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Originally posted by JasonC:

All fair comments. I do note however that the outcome - attack failed historically - is not sufficient to justify a stacked battle. The designer may not script the outcome. He must leave that to the matched wits of the players, or it isn't strategy. Doesn't mean balance has to be perfect, does mean the designer should emphatically not have an intended winner in mind, for reasons of supposed history, or national bias, or any other reason.

I agree with the conclusion. It was however not supposed to be scripted, but supposed to be very difficult for the Soviet commander. The scripting is the result of flaws in design, not of a conscious decision to make the scenario unbalanced.

All the best

Andreas

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I enjoyed the discussion and am glad you pulled it out. Kind of like listening to two CMBB titans quarrelling in the clouds. Flashes of lightening, the roar of thunder.... but will any rain fall for us poor part-time peasants and our stunted crops? Do you have any plans to revise some of the early war scenarios based on present understanding and scholarship?

I liked the "21st Army" and would enjoy seeing it tweaked to play again. (I'm most intrigued by the first months of the war.)

Or has that already been done somewhere?

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I enjoyed the discussion and am glad you pulled it out. Kind of like listening to two CMBB titans quarrelling in the clouds. Flashes of lightening, the roar of thunder.... but will any rain fall for us poor part-time peasants and our stunted crops? Do you have any plans to revise some of the early war scenarios based on present understanding and scholarship?

I liked the "21st Army" and would enjoy seeing it tweaked to play again. (I'm most intrigued by the first months of the war.)

Or has that already been done somewhere?

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Jason's comments about this particular scenario represent the worst of the "lawyer researcher" breed of comments.

By "lawyer researcher", I mean that person that can quote you line by line, every TO&E, from every OOB, of every nation in their sleep.

First and foremost, I disagree with Jason's drill theory. As any of you that have been here long will have seen. While I agree, that the military is trained from drills, where I disagree, is that in the field, they hold much relevance. A plan is only good until the first shot is fired. The drill goes by a set equipment and manpower set to supply the solution to a particular problem. The term "throw the book out the window" refers to the problem of trying to solve the solution with the "drill" when you don't have the correct equipment and manpower set to use the drill. According to the histories that I read that would be most of the time.

This religious adherence to the official TO&E to me has the same problem.

Does a German infantry division have 81mm mortars assigned? Yes, of course they do. BUT are they where they need to be? Are the tubes in place? Is the ammo with them, or for that matter, do they even have ammo? Do you have the FO there to direct them or was he killed two hours ago?

What about the Russian 76mm guns...were they lost in a previous engagement, setup in another sector, out of ammo? Do you know where they are?

The joke is, that we know that every unit went into combat - with everybody in their assigned places, with the right amount of ammo, following orders to the letter.

If this is true, I know nothing about how combat works. The phase, "truth is stranger than fiction" comes to mind. How can somebody, who hasn't done exhaustive research on ANY particular battle, make claims as to what was, or wasn't, there. What should, or shouldn't, be in a particular scenario...

This is just a game. Ah, what a wonderful phase! It is pulled out when it's to prove a point against the other side's arguments and buried when it applies to our own.

This being a game, and our trying to "balance" scenarios, brings some things to the table at times that weren't historically accurate. I once did a scenario, where a tank commander directed both the tanks and the infantry defense. I put BOTH an armor commander on the map AND an infantry commander to represent his actions. That certainly isn't historically accurate but this is a game remember?!

It all depends on what the designer is trying to model.

For those nitpickers, I love them, go and join The Proving Grounds and make all the commenst you want. That is where you will, not only get heard, but more than likely have your comments make an impact.

Keep in mind though, that I might just know why I designed a scenario a certain way, and it wasn't to please just YOU...

Good thread Andreas.

[ April 21, 2006, 05:38 AM: Message edited by: Panther Commander ]

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PC - Likes beating straw men. The designer was attempting to illustrate a whole period of the operational fighting with a typical example, not to model some obscure outlier of a fight that he researched. When trying to convey an impression of typical tactical relationships to show why something happened as it did, you don't deliberately depart from common match ups.

Yes a German division with 81mm mortars had them, and didn't ever not have them. No, they weren't someplace else. Occasionally they might be low on ammo - they were harder to resupply than the div arty because they had fewer organic supply service assets and were farther forward. They were no more rare or specialist a type of equipment than MPs for NCOs, or the HMGs in the company weapons section. The game designers didn't include them in each company as purchased simply because they were sometimes used indirect in battery - to be represented by an 81mm FO - and sometimes individually, to be represented by an on-map mortar.

Russian 76mm guns might vary a bit more from place to place. A unit fighting its way out of encirclement might have abandoned them, or fired off all their ammo. A unit attacking with AFV support might leave them in the rear firing indirect. Much more often, though, there were some doing that and more at the front. They are as common in Russian ID attacks as tanks are in Panzer division ones. Sometimes PDs attacked with their PzGdr regiments without any armor support of any kind - but its is rare.

The more basic point PC misses is about the balance match ups created by including specific items on one side without their specific historical counters on the other.

If you want to deliberately show what happens when armor meets none (and no ranged AT of any kind) in open terrain, you can murder puppies to your heart's content. But don't pretend it is a strategy game, being decided by move and counter in the minds of the rival commanders. The designer is writing a movie script and shoving the players into a passive role watching it.

Occasionally it is fun to make puzzle like scenarios, in which a side gets only some limited means to accomplish a task they usually handle with more abundant ones. It can help learn a wider range of tactics. I've got a training scenario where the Russians get only AT mines and pioneers to stop armor, for example. But I don't pass it off as the typical match up responsible for the operational outcome of the late summer Russian offensives in central Russia.

And there is a distressing tendency of designers to know enough about cool item A on the German side and highlight it, without even being aware of its specific counter in the Russian historical toolkit. They wind up unintentionally making unbalanced and unhistorical fights, simply because their entirely historical full battery of 75mm PAK is left against zero 82mm mortars, or what have you.

A scenario design should never be ahistorically unbalanced, unintentionally.

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I suspect it comes down to sources; English-language versions of German histories and OOB are vastly easier to find than Russian ones. Which is no excuse, the basic Russian stuff is obviously knowable, or JasonC wouldn't have anything to base his arguments on.

It is the same for CW scenario designers to an extent; British, Canadian etc. unit histories rarely divulge detailed info on German force makeups, being written from wartime documents that rarely reveal detailed knowledge of the other side. Here too it takes some historical digging, but it is doable.

Will be interesting to see the kinds of matchups CMC provides; presumably detailed OOB info being used to generate the CM fights will keep things closer to the historical reality - but will it be any fun over and beyond the puppy-murderers?

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It comes down to the quality of the sources, and even more, the reader's ability to deal with those sources critically.

Glantz, Zladoga, and Russian Battlefield, to name a few, offer a surfeit of information on the Red Army. If designers knew, and drew upon those sources the same way as they drew on, say, Jentz and Feldgrau, then the scenario designer would have more or less balanced information with which to build a scenario.This is assuming, of course, he is going to represent the scenario as historical, or as a fictionalized recreation of a historical situation.

That is sometimes not the case. Frequently, well, at least sometimes, the designer seems to have built his scenario based not on a responsible reading of histories, but rather a sympathetic reading of people like von Mellenthin, von Gudarian, and von Manstein; seasoned with information gleaned from several glossy coffee table books full of full-color cutaway drawings of the Maus tank, and a healthy helping of the History Channel.

That is a superficial approach. If those less credible sources are the main, or even worse the only basis for a designer's understanding of how tactical engagements during WW2 went, were equipped, etc.; then he is more likely to create a scenario out of whack with historical reality. It will reproduce the Cold War image of faceless and clumsy Soviet hordes crashing onto small bands of brave German military virtuosos.

Here is an example speaking, in part, to PC's assertion that drills go out the window when the shooting starts. I was reading the memoir section of the Russian Battlefield yesterday, Russian-language side, and there is an interview with an ATR platoon leader. Here are a few notes gleaned from that interview:

1. The guy claimed he destroyed three panzers with ATR shots in his career, burning one with a single shot. He remarks that normally a kill would take 4-5 shots, provided you had an angle where you could punch through the tank's armor.

2. The ideal range for an ATR was 400 meters.

3. His unit's tactic, as apparently was the routine throughout the ATR battalion his platoon was assigned to, was to split the ATR platoon into two groups. One group, about 5-7 rifles, was spread out on the main route of the expected enemy armor advance. Their job was to shoot at the front of the tanks, although they certainly couldn't hurt them. The guy points out that ATR rounds bouncing off the front of a tank make sparks, and that generally forces the tank crew to take evasive action.

The other group, about 2-4 rifles, were the good shots. They got the flank positions, and their job was to pop the tank in the tail, as an ATR bullet did the most damage hitting the engine comparment, and the easiest way to put a bullet into the engine compartment was by shooting into the tank's rear. The good shots waited, obviously, for the poorer shotss to force the tank to take evasive action.

4. This was the only tactic the platoon used, and it did not vary throughout his service with the unit. The guy claims it worked. He was with the unit about a year and a half. So, either he is lying, or here is evidence of a drill that, in fact, was applied in combat, despite PC's arguements to the contrary.

Of course, it could be an exception, maybe it was a rare case of a drill being applied, when in general combat means all drills go out the window. Since the technique strikes me as a rough-and-ready tactical solution typical of soldiers in general and Red Army soldiers in particular, I suspect the drill was probably wider-spread than just the ATR battalion. But I don't know.

Ok, what does all that mean to me if I am going to design a CM scenario?

1. I am not going to pitch a scenario so that it is somehow likely for an ATR to destroy a panzer in a single shot. Just because a veteran recalled it does not mean that tactical outcome - single ATR shot = KOed panzer - must be replicated in the next scenario I design.

2. If I set up an ATR platoon in defense for a CM scenario, I am not going to rig things so that the ATRs open fire on tanks at 400 meters, as in the game an ATR using the historically accurate engagement range is committing suicide. My goal as a designer is to create a tactical situation giving players tactical choices similar to the ones faced by the actual ones. So in my briefing I am not going to "order" the Soviet player to open fire with his ATRs at 400 meters.

3. I am certainly going to set up ATRs in groups, and I will criticize scenarios that have singleton ATRs. This account is yet more evidence that ATRs in real life were effective in much the same way that they are in CM: By hail fire from a lot of points of the compass.

4. I may very well set up a dozen of the teams so that 1/3 of them are rather good shots and they're the ones more or less on the flank of the kill zone. However, I won't do it every single time I am placing an ATR platoon.

5. I am going to be a little more critical (if such a thing is possible) of a German account describing "the thick Krupp steel of the mighty panzer protecting the courageous breasts of the black-clad heroes ridng off like knights of old in their armored chariots to battle the numberless Slavic hordes," :rolleyes: as I have now read an account from at least one Slav - an individual with a first name and a last name and a history - who was brave enough to take on Wehrmacht tanks with little more than large-caliber bolt-action rifles, and at the end of his career didn't claim dozens of hundreds of German tanks destroyed, but three. Maybe I am not positive the guy actually KOed alll three, maybe the Germans recovered the vehicles later, but all in all it seems like the guy is telling the truth. He's no Rudel, and he's not trying to be.

An ATR gunner destroying a tank or two over eighteen months of combat is credible. What is less credible is that an ATR gunner actually survived that long under those conditions; but I am assuming that the interviewee was an exception. It is clear the guy survived, after all he was interviewed.

The key is, obviously, actively seeking out sources from both sides when doing research, and indeed when doing general reading for fun. If you have not made a conscious effort to seek out Soviet sources - and I repeat, you don't have to speak Russian, although it helps. All you need is an Internet connection and/or the ability to buy books about the Red Army from Amazon. If you haven't done that minimum, or similar, then you really have no business designing a CMBB scenario and labeling it "historical".

It is of course just a game, but as hobbyists playing the game we should be honest with each other. There is nothing wrong if your scenario depicts the Soviets as a pack of buffoons, and the Germans as the military version of the 1970s Pittsburgh Steelers, and citing secondary English-language sources based on German propaganda as "proof" an engagement like that did/might have happened.

Just don't label a scenario like that "historical". It isn't, and if you do apply the label, wittingly or unwittingly, you are misleading other members of the hobby.

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BigDuke6 - spot on mate - I'd echo your comments wholeheartedly - and thanks for the info about the ATRs!

Your right the Soviet info is out there it just takes a bit more digging and in many places is not as complete as corresponding German accounts but it is still there, and ceratinly accounts like your mans above deserve to be read and due respect given.

Cheers fur noo

George Mc

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George,

I've been meaning to send you a note and this is as good as place as any.

I'm just happen to be playing Tankoviy Desant in PBEM (I'm Soviets, suprise), and it's great fun. I'll shoot you an AAR once we get done if you like. I am not the tactical expert that JasonC is, but certainly the theory that tank-mounted infantry and armor can give a halftrack-mounted infantry and panzer force a run for the money, is getting a decent work out.

Meanwhile, I just wanted to say the map is incredible. How good? Well, earlier this week strangely enough I had to go to the border region of north Ukraine, not far from Belarus and so on the south edge of the Pripet marsh. Not in the marsh, but close. Not much up that way, sustenance farming and forestry mostly.

Your map is uncanny, in how close it is to some of the terrain I drove through. The only major difference from your map, and where I was, is the RL forested bits are thicker usually, and the stands are usually softwood rather than hardwoods.

(Which is not to say the tree mix like you had it was wrong for all of East Europe. Just being a tree grog).

The road layout, the water drainage, the villages, terrain deviation, the distances, heck, even the way the fields were tilled are so close to the particular(modern) "reality" I saw, it was spooky. Fortunately the weather for the drive was mostly sunny with a bit of rain. Had there been fog I might have been seeing shadows of nasty armored vehicles you put in the scenarion, but I can't mention here because of FOW.

I have always been impressed with your maps, but you have outdone yourself on this one. One man's opinion: Well done!

*Applause*

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Gentlemen,

Why are you discussing the 81mm mortar as a Division level asset? It was at the battalion level, like the 50mm mortar is a company level asset. If a scenario gives a 120mm FO to a unit that means the BN CO has designated that unit as his main effort and given it the priority of his indirect fire assets. The attached link shows the 40-42 Bn organization. Being new to CMBB, a question I have, and it may have been answered long ago, is why do platoon and company commanders have pistols? The Germans equiped them with MP-40s after the campaign in France in 1940. The Russian's also had automatic weapons at the platoon and compay level. web page

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Something I noted in the website you listed that doesn't make sense:

Tiger's first showed up in Tunisia on November 28th, 1943 (their first field test of 4 tanks)

Obviously a typo with regards to the year, but is the author also saying that Tunisia was the combat debut of the Tiger?

IIRC, schwere Pz Abt.502 was the first unit to take the Tiger into combat just outside of Leningrad in Sept '42.

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St - we aren't. We all know how the 81mm was deployed. We simply mean an infantry division parent for the overall force, as opposed to a panzer division parent.

And incidentally, the 50mm was pretty much abandoned even in 1941 and certainly after that. Its ammo use returns show that. And 120s in the German army were very rare - practically nobody had TOE of them. The standard was for there to be 2 81mm at company level and another bunch at battalion - 4 or 6 being common numbers in the latter location. The Germans fielded about 10 times as many 81s as 120s...

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