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Winning In A Hurry


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I've noticed, in recent weeks, that their has been much discussion about proper attack tactics. This discussion has been, for me, at least, very enlightening. I've learned a lot about properly assaulting various enemy positions. The problem that I so often seem to have, though, is time. Given an infinite amount of time, anyone can put these excellent tactics into place. But what about scenarios like (from ROW V) Across Moltke Bridge? The Russian player has pretty much overwhelming fire superiority, but not much time. It seems like whenever I'm in a rush, my tactical technique falls apart. Does anyone have suggestions for doing proper attacks when on a very sharp deadline?

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More time always makes the attacker's job easier, and it is useful to consider why.

It makes more rally available overall. Troops get reused, and that is important when enemy fire messes men up, as will always happen to attackers. This is most important for infantry. But why does it benefit the attacker so much more than the defender?

Because, second, the attacker can largely determine the pace of the engagement. He pushes harder when he can stand it, and slows down or backs off when things are locally too hot. The defender cannot back off so easily. He gives up limited terrain, easily runs out of map, and can find any disengagement very difficult under attacker firepower and continually advance.

When time is exceptionally tight, the attacker's control over this key variable is effectively removed from his arsenal. Instead of applying pace adaptively he must apply it uniformly.

Exchanges take time. A more powerful attacker can "trade through" a defending position with just even odds trades. Those trades frequently take the form of first the attacker losing something, then the defender losing part of what did it. In principle short fights also have this character, but the initial part of each exchange weighs more heavily.

Exchanges are made efficient by proper use of combined arms, picking just the right weapon to counter each item the enemy presents. It takes a little time to set each of those up. It is more efficient in losses and thus exchange terms, if others arms and elements slow down in the meantime, reducing their exposure and risk (or simply not increasing it, e.g. by not closing the range) until the right weapon has had a chance to do its job.

I find that an attacker can rarely accomplish his mission without destroying the defending force. Maneuver can help do that - e.g. by many on few fights along chosen routes - but rarely wins without going through the intermediate goal, "destruction of the enemy". In most fights, the winner is ok to ragged out while the loser is trashed.

Notice, pushing the range shorter dials up enemy firepower arbitrarily. So almost any force can suffer destruction if just mashed together forcefully enough. It is just much harder to be careful about the exchange ratio, his destruction and mine, when striving above all to dial the absolute rate as high as possible.

The last is, nevertheless, the key to winning when time is very tight, in my opinion. You don't win by avoiding enemy firepower but by destroying the enemy force. To destroy his whole force in half the time you need twice the delivered firepower per unit time. To get that even while taking higher losses, you need the range to be lower throughout, and you need far more units with LOS and firing, any given minute, than in a slower, more deliberate attack.

A big part of the problem is intel and getting spots. In a slow attack you can get these by working some units close while many strong shooters are not too exposed. You can moderate the number of enemy spotted to what you can kill quickly, then string those together in sequence. And you can afford to learn about enemy position gradually, can adapt to what you find, etc.

In a rapid attack you have to employ guesswork about such things, much more forcefully. You have to rely on less artful, "total dose" combined arms, rather than perfect "toolkit" combined arms. By which I mean, send some of everything and when the engagement gets hot, give everyone a decent target for their weapon type. Throw the whole soup to nuts mix at the enemy and hope some of it sticks. Inevitably that means higher losses and is less efficient, because it conceeds some perfect match ups to the enemy.

You still need combined arms, but overall combat power is more important than the exact mix. Units with high firepower - especially close - and resilient under most enemy fire, are the most important. That means tank infantry teams, with the infantry high quality and equipped with automatics. It can also means large caliber FOs, either using map fire or walking just ahead of the "point" (those help because enemy firepower can't neutralize them).

A force attacking with a tight time limit has to use "traveling overwatch" more than a base of fire. Which is a fancy way of saying, staying in a fist that dares anybody to shoot at them and hits back so hard whoever does so evaporates in two minutes. Perfect kill sacks can make mincemeat of such fists. The only way to avoid that without time is proper guesswork to chose a good route. With "good" meaning "unexpected" not "has lots of cover". Where the enemy is going to be is much more important, and you have to guess it without knowing for sure.

To train in fighting this way, try using the Russian mech way of attacking - armor force type, mech parent unit, with 2/3rds of the point budget spent on just main battle tanks. The remainder split between infantry (regular or veteran, riding and a few scouts) and fire support (air, prep fire arty, a little reactive arty to walk e.g. 120mm mortar fire ahead of the point, perhaps a few on-map mortars to help against guns). The standard counter to anything is a platoon of tanks inundates the shooter with direct fire.

Rapid attack with infantry heavy forces is also possible, in tight terrain or at night. The key is good estimates of where the enemy will be, and confident maneuver to get superior force very close to them (initial LOS nearly point blank, from lots at once). Very high short range firepower and many on fews do the rest. Rapid attacks by infantry over open ground do not work. Infantry can attack successfully in relatively open terrain only deliberately. And all arms will do anything cheaper with more time.

A fine question - I hope this helps.

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*Ahem...*

Juan,

It just so happens I did rather well at the Moltke Bridge scenario in the ROWV tournament, using pretty much JasonC's playbook.

Almost as important I made a nice pretty AAR with tons of pictures and a detailed write-up. If you're interested I'll send it to you, or you can look it up at:

http://www.gregories.net/row/aar_mb.php

WalpurgisNacht, Londoner, and Green Hornet did even better in Moltke Bridge as the Soviets, definately check out their AARs as well.

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I've read a number of the AARs. Green Hornet did the best by far, in my estimation.

He simply refused to rush, writing off the farthest flag. He probed with a single platoon, killed everything revealed by it with massive HE, smoked only after doing so and crossed in an organized fashion. He kept the bridge clear most of the time, kept his armor well in hand and alive, spitting fire.

As a result he won better than 80-20 without taking the last flag, losing only 32 men. If he had properly estimated enemy weakness after getting across, and slightly accelerated in the last 8 minutes or so, he probably would have lost 50-65 men and contested (at a minimum) the last flag.

BigDuke got all of them but at 4 times the men lost, using relentless firepower and shoving. Walpurgis Night did very well leading with armor, but some of that is probably luck. Others who led with armor lost several T-34s on the bridge to schreck fire. WN did concentrate a whole platoon and probably would have succeeded regardless, but it being costless was luck.

Reading the failures, they all rushed, panicking on the bridge when the fire got hot. Most smoked too soon, thinking they were avoiding enemy fire when they were mostly masking their own. Some got too flustered about the near-bank counterattack, though that is mostly a sideshow. Several were reckless with the armor, driving over AT mines, getting capped by fausts and tank hunters joy-riding around the German held areas, etc.

It is also clear many of them overcrowded the bridge horribly. The 250 men hit stuff and up comes from that. BigDuke did stuff the bridge at times, but with few of the men pinned and most of them firing back - he was parking there, not trying to rush across. It stands out in BigDuke's narrative that he is blase about firing from the open, something the others rarely mention (not even considering positions for guns not far back in cover e.g.). That undoubtedly helped him, though he took higher losses than Green Hornet as a result.

I've said it in other contexts, but range is cover when you are far away, and firepower is cover when you are close. Too many players think it is impossible to stop in the open, and I'd even say most overvalue cover and undervalue shooting as a means of defending their men. When you have both you can get the walk-in loss rates Green Hornet posted.

Does anybody think GH's force, with virtually all of his 500 men in good order at the end, in cover, all AFVs functioning, wasn't going to take the HQ with ease in the next ten minutes? Sure he might have gone a little faster - WN did, correctly noticing the Germans were very weak once he was across with armor intact. But nobody was going to lay a glove on him, either way. Nothing could live that tried, and he refused to push too hard into areas he did not yet have dominate by fire. That slowed him enough to not get one flag but kept losses miniscule.

I also note that all the successful Russian players out-killed the Germans, whatever their absolute level of casualties.

Of the successes, WN's was closest to what I called above the Russian mech way of fighting. He led with concentrated armor and just outshot anything that challenged them. Their cover got the infantry across, after which it was a victory march. The Russian mech way takes risks and when they pay off it can pay off big. Even taking losses in tanks and riders, it can trade through an enemy fast.

BigDuke's method was more like classic total dose Russian firepower tactics, and worked just fine. Somewhat expensive compared to the more foo-foo approaches, but brutal and entirely effective. Green Hornet's approach was much closer to my own firepower-dominated attritionist attack methods. It took real skill to apply those in a situation this unpromising for them (the narrow bridge, the time, etc).

One man's comments on the AARs as I've read them. Those who actually played them may have additional comments.

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Actually BigDuke, I picked Across Moltke Bridge as an example because of your incredible AAR. Personally, I thought that your Moltke Bridge AAR was the best of the ROW V AARs, better than the airfield one that won. I haven't read the others yet, but I just went to download them.

Jason, great thoughts as usual. Your point about taking an unexpected route versus the one with the best cover was especially interesting. It does seem that in scenarios with a short time limit the attacker has a huge fire advantage, but I feel that too often, I get hurried, push my force to hard, and lose cohesion. In some ways, these scenarios are lots of fun as an attacker, just because you have lots of toys to play with, but I think they are harder than they seem at first glance.

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Thanks for the positive comments, Jason.

Moltke Bridge was one of the most enjoyable scenarios I've played in a while. Undoubtedly my positive experience was due to the fact that, for the most part, I was able to execute my plan just as I had originally envisioned it. That's something that rarely happens.

Whether it was a conscious decision or not, I agree that the key to my success was taking my time. I felt the only plan that had any chance of succeeding was to -

1) Expose as many enemy positions as possible while taking minimal casualities.

2) Drop loads of ovewhelmeing HE on uncovered enemy positions.

3) Cross the bridge under the cover of smoke *after* deadly front line enemy units had been knocked out or pinned/panicked.

This all took time and the bulk of my forces sat idly waiting "for their time"...but in the end it paid off. smile.gif

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Juan,

I played Across Moltke Bridge in ROW V, Group 7 to a Draw. Allied 53 - Axis 47. My Russian results were my worst in my tournament but I did learn plenty and enjoy the scenario and tournament.

I made many of the mistakes Jason identified (rush.. smoked too soon… overcrowded the bridge horribly… etc) so I was gratified to pull a rabbit out of my donkey. My advice would be to reread Jason’s notes. I had never played this type of scenario before so I made all these classic mistakes.

I have part of an AAR written on all the scenarios but have not completed them. I do plan to complete and submit these AARs as Post Katrina time allows. We are @ 60,000 population now of a Pre Katrina population of 462,000 so things are still a bit active.

Peace,

Dawg off for Dinner

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Originally posted by juan_gigante:

Does anyone have suggestions for doing proper attacks when on a very sharp deadline?

Do you use the 'Fast' command to move infantry? I have learned to use 'fast' with good results, and now use it almost exclusively. I do use advance over short distances in cover, but in the open my men sprint.

Now (from what I have read) this is contrary to the JasonC school-of-thought for moving infantry. But 'fast' will get your guys there in a hurry, which is one weakness of advance-and-rest method.

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Originally posted by David Chapuis:

</font><blockquote>quote:</font><hr />Originally posted by juan_gigante:

Does anyone have suggestions for doing proper attacks when on a very sharp deadline?

Do you use the 'Fast' command to move infantry? I have learned to use 'fast' with good results, and now use it almost exclusively. I do use advance over short distances in cover, but in the open my men sprint.

Now (from what I have read) this is contrary to the JasonC school-of-thought for moving infantry. But 'fast' will get your guys there in a hurry, which is one weakness of advance-and-rest method. </font>

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Mmmm...yea Moltke Bridge. Steve McClaire as Soviets got a tactical win on me. He never really got across the bridge but I lost a huge number (virtually all) of the silly east bridge reinforcements. Thought I was going to mount some kind of counteroffensive, lol. He turned around, forgot about the bridge, and spent most of the game hunting them all down. If I'd just stayed put, probably would have been a tactical victory for me.

I protected the bridge by turning my concrete bunker so that it faced south, at right angles to the bridge direction. Made it very tough to kill since you couldn't get a firing slit shot on it without moving way out onto the bridge which got you killed by shrecks. That bunker must have caused 75 casualties before he got it thru the side at 30 meters.

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Short waypoints of "fast" are good for avoiding shots entirely, when the enemy hasn't spotted that unit yet, or doesn't have many shooters, and you are going to reach cover and change the movement rate (or stop) very shortly. That is a useful skill to learn and better players get a lot of mileage out of it.

Think "dash". The distance has to be small enough the typical enemy unit won't go through two of its "time to fire" cycles. Under 10 seconds is best, meaning about 30m in open and LOS. Short fasts like that also won't tire your men out very much.

It is also useful for rapid repositioning in cover or dead ground, when enemy fire is not a factor. It can also be useful early for a minute or two in many scenarios, to shift positions or grab something before the enemy can.

But running as a general rule through ground the enemy can see and hit, for 30 second to full minute times, won't usually work, particularly with lower unit qualities. One shot by an MG at range will frequently break the squad. They can then change direction and get stuck in the open running around under fire. Directed right onto the enemy, a running unit will frequently be shot to rags or eliminated outright.

They are much more resilient on "advance", with time to rally in even modest cover.

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Originally posted by JasonC:

Walpurgis Night did very well leading with armor, but some of that is probably luck. Others who led with armor lost several T-34s on the bridge to schreck fire. WN did concentrate a whole platoon and probably would have succeeded regardless, but it being costless was luck.

Ah . . . . time time time. That is the trick. Leading with armor, being costless = luck. Well to a certain extent, absolutely. Leading with armor is rarely a good idea. You won't catch me trying it very often. But in this case there were so many other factors to consider.

Time---there was no time. No time to trip the 100 cover arcs on the bridge, one by one. To break this defense the attacker had to haul ass. Not only to take the flags in time, but to beat the inevitable reinforcements from getting into the fight at the bottleneck. The latter is actually the most important factor.

Observation----what physical ground was available to the defender (with LOS to the bridge)? Not a whole lot in this city! So little in fact, that the possible AT gun positions were really clumped into 2 areas. OK, so here's the deal, prep bombard the holy hell out of those areas, then rush. That effectively (almost) eliminates the AT gun threat altogether. Considering the tank rush was timed to arrive toward the very end of the barrages, and AT gun(guns) that had survived would be suppressed and not nearly as effective. It turns out my arty took out his one gun before the rush, so bingo. But the result would have been the same even if he had lived. I might have lost a single tank, even two. But look where I'm at now-----I've got first rate over-watch support to cross that bridge-----out of schrek range-----guns are dead----my only concern was enemy armor. Sure I spent my FOs on a gamble, but Russians had so much firepower I could easily drop that entire town with what I have left. And here I am early on in the scenario, with the firepower in place to practically sleep-walk my way across the bridge.

Anyway if you thought leading with armor was nutso in Moltke Bridge, I think you'll fall out of your chair when you see what I did turn 1 attacking in St. Nazaire----another scenario where the attacker is extremely pressed for time. I took all the flags (one was left tied), and I'm going to guess the next best attacker might have taken half the flags. I'm tempted to post a screen-shot but the tourney isn't quite over yet so it will have to wait. smile.gif

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Juan, thanks for the kind comments, read my Highlanders in Hell AAR if you like. I lost that one basically because I ran out of time, and I basically completed Highlanders before I got going on Moltke. So, if it seems like I was rushing a bit in Moltke, it's no doubt in part because I was remembering my failure in Highlanders.

As far as my performance in Moltke is concerned, I think Jason's comments are mostly right on the money. I pointed this out in the AAR, but it is worth mentioning it again, I think:

1. About a third of my losses came in the end game, after I was well across the bridge and bringing infantry forward to grab the final flag. Three or four times my opponent sprung ambushes from debris at ranges of 20-30 meters, and I lost full squads wiped out, plus a few more men hunting down and killing off the ambushers. I was rushing and I knew it at the time, and clearly I was going too fast: I grabbed the last flag on turn 25, with three turns yet to go. In retrospect, that was shoving the troops way too hard.

Lesson: When you are pushing real hard and fast, it takes real skill to realize when you don't have to shove quite so hard, and can take the time and care to CYA. Figuring out the rock/paper/scissors of unit type tactics is one level of understanding the game, but judging the degree to which you push at a given point in the game is a higher level.

2. It's fascinating to see the contrast in styles. As opposed to Walpurgis I consciously spent infantry lives to make damn sure I knew where every enemy firer was that I could, so that the tanks moved forward with minimal risk. I wanted that tank firepower throughout the game, and if some one had told me to lead with tanks the way Walpurgis did, and risk losing 60 x 85mm HE rounds, I would have told him he was nuts.

Of course, I was protecting my advance with trashed buildings, and Walpurgis wasn't, mostly.

3. As to the higher casualties I suffered, I would only add that in 1st Belarussian Front Comrade Zhukov placed a great deal more emphasis on getting all the objectives on time, rather than keeping levels of blood spilled within some limit. The war was almost over, after all, I needed to be thinking about promotion and a properly cushy job during the peace. :D

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Ah Moltke, aka "The Pillbox that Wouldn't Die", aka "Case Study on how Luck Can Turn a Battle".

Leading with the armor was a necessity in that one, due to the placement of the aforementioned pillbox. Once its gone, things are relatively simple for the Soviets: Lay smoke, surpress with the armor, cross the bridge, let the SMGers do their thing.

Of course, if that pillbox refuses to go down, you have to get... creative (see AAR).

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