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Offline choppinlt

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Artillery Revisited
« on: February 17, 2017, 05:57:41 PM »
To my surprise  :o I have not discussed the overall artillery concept in over a year. While the post is still mostly accurate, the concept has evolved. Previously players would prescribe a primary mission and were allowed to choose a secondary mission if they wanted, but the artillery concept has evolved by allowing players to create their own fire plan for each firing element (i.e. battery). The current concept has been used since the beginning of the the current scenario, but it may not have been apparent to the casual reader.

Furthermore, the scenario has allowed me to do some real critical analysis on artillery and its desired effect, especially as it relates to different missions. It is very easy to have big picture concepts, but putting it in to effective practice can be a whole different matter. What about cumulative effects on morale? What about material losses? What about capturing the effects of different missions? I will say that I have found the stereotypical concept of aggressively shelling the enemy to cause casualties has been the easiest part to develop. I guess what I am trying to say is that this has taken more time than I had originally anticipated, and the scenario has helped force me to focus on the finer details of different fire missions.

Fire missions are performed in 15 minute blocks. Op fire, defensive fire and area fire are FM's where ammo is expended in an attempt to cause maximum destruction to personnel and equipment. Since Area fire is a planned FM, players can tell a battery to hit a particular position at a specific time and duration (like what has happened in the scenario).

Harrassing missions are planned missions too, but their primary effect is to slow or prevent any activity from an enemy unit. It affects a larger area, but overall ammo usage is roughly 25% of the FM's mentioned above. Light arty is more efficient (I didn't say effective) in conducting hararssment than heavier arty because the harrassment effect has more to do with the # of rounds fired vs the caliber of the round. Accuracy is of lesser concern as well since the primary desired effect is suppression. For the duration of a harrassment FM a company sized unit will move no faster than the infiltration movement rate for the first 300m of movement, will prevent any work progress (e.g. digging in), and prevent recovery of fatigue, cohesion, and resupply. Furthermore, this FM will cause virtually no casualties or material damage, unless a unit is attempting to move through an area under harrassing fire. Finally, units will suffer a slight chance of fatigue and cohesion loss too. For larger units, effects are directly proportional to the size of the unit being hit. In other words a battalion of tanks with a 900m footprint is NOT going to be stopped by a single harrassment FM, but it will slow it a little.

I will stop for now, but I will discuss the Interdiction FM a bit later. Please let me know your thoughts!  :)
« Last Edit: March 18, 2017, 01:37:28 AM by choppinlt »

Offline choppinlt

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Re: Artillery Revisted
« Reply #1 on: February 21, 2017, 03:23:06 PM »
Before I start talking about more Fire Missions, I want to take a step back and give some design thoughts. Yeah I know  ::) you don't have to know all of this to be an effective player, but this is meant to enhance your understanding. The basic design assumption is that artillery is going to attempt to execute fire in such a way to maximize its effect for a given situation. While this assumption may sound silly to state (DUH!), it is important when considering effects. For instance I may not want my observers to just blast a 100mx100m area when attacking infantry marching in column on a road. Greater effect is likely to occur by a striking linearly along the road (which would likely be 200mx50m).

Let me also include a couple of definitions that are important for context as to how FM's work in the game. I have mentioned this before but All FM's are either unplanned or planned. unplanned FM's mean that they automatically execute under the proper circumstances over the course of the game turn without player input. Players tell batteries to adopt this *stance* but the execution is, well...unplanned!  :) Conversely, planned missions are when the player tells the battery to fire at a specific place, at a specific time, for a specific duration. OK, on to Interdiction...

The Interdiction FM will be for precision fire against a very specific static target to render it ineffective. The only targets I can think of are roads and bridges. Each Interdiction FM will require 30 min to perform and will use 25% to 50% of the ammo used for an Area FM. These FM's may only be performed if they are able to be observed. These FM's are most efficiently performed by medium and heavy arty.

I discussed the Area FM in the original post, but I will give a review. This FM is planned for a specific area and duration (in 15 min increments) to concentrate fire with the goal of damaging personnel and equipment in approximately a 10,000m2 (e.g. 100mx100m) sized area. This will take about 36 rounds from US 105's to accomplish. Additional batteries from the same battalion may combine fire using this FM and will gain a bonus for effectiveness when doing so. In other words if batteries from the same battalion fire together at the same target, the batteries gain extra effectiveness by firing together. The general assumption is that extra batteries are going to increase the coverage area, thus exposing more enemy troops to being hit, not solely concentrating on a 100m x 100m area. Furthermore, every firing element counts as expending its full allotment to achieve effect. So a battalion of US 105s is going to expend about 216 rounds in about 30 minutes.  Example: 4 batteries are performing an Area FM on the same location at the same time. 3 of the batteries are from the same battalion and 1 is from a different battalion. The 3 batteries from the same battalion gain an effectiveness bonus, but the 4th battery from the different battalion does not.

Op FM's are similar to Area FM's except they are reactionary (i.e. unplanned). Op FM's may be requested in 2 different cases. Case 1 is when an enemy unit is spotted moving, an Op FM request can be made. Case 1 Op FM's are only performed by a single battery, although I may allow for additional batteries to respond for American and British FM requests. Circumstances will dictate whether or not the FM request is fullfilled. but when it occurs the results are calculated exactly like an Area FM.
Case 2 is that an Op FM may be requested by a unit that comes under ground attack, but unlike Case 1 there is no hard limit on the number of batteries that respond in support. The amount of support a ground unit receives will depend on various circumstances.

Defensive FM's are exactly like Case 2 Op FM's, however batteries with a Defensive FM will only respond to support a unit under ground attack.

When a Counterbattery FM is given to a battery, it sits silently until an enemy artillery unit is detected firing. It then responds by firing at one of the detected batteries in an attempt to destroy or lessen the effectiveness of the enemy battery. The enemy may sustain material damage as a result, but the most common outcome is a reduction in artillery effectiveness in trying to complete its mission.

That is all for now, but I have yet still more post. Next I will explain the differing levels of support (general, direct, and dedicated) and what it means to the player. In the mean time, please feel free to ask questions or share your thougthts.... ;D

Online Asid

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Re: Artillery Revisted
« Reply #2 on: February 21, 2017, 05:43:44 PM »
Great stuff my friend. This is well thought out like the whole project  8)

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Offline choppinlt

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Re: Artillery Revisted
« Reply #3 on: February 24, 2017, 03:16:32 PM »
Great stuff my friend. This is well thought out like the whole project  8)
  ;D Thank you Sir!

While I have focused on the different FM's, I need to mention the differing levels of support that artillery can provide. There are 3 levels: general, direct, and dedicated. All artillery units are either general or direct support, and dedicated is its own special category that I will discuss more later. Players do not explicitly state the level of support, the level of support is reflected where the artillery unit is attached in the chain of command.

Typically speaking, general support means that artillery unit is attached at the division level (or higher), and it is eligible to support any unit that is in its chain of command.

Direct support refers to any artillery unit that is attached at the Regt/Bgd level. For example, the Cannon Co in US infantry regiments is a direct support unit by default. Artillery from higher echelons may be attached as direct support as well. Direct support typically means higher responsiveness for Op and Defensive Fire FM's by the units they are directly supporting. Furthermore, direct support artillery can dedicate firing elements more quickly than general support.

Dedicated support is a category all its own because it is assigned to individual firing elements support a specific unit. An attacking unit in a ground engagement will ONLY receive arty that is dedicated to them. Units that get attacked recieve any dedicated support they currently have. Furthermore, attacked units are still eligible to receive more Op/Def FM's in support. Whether they receive it or not is a different matter, but they are at least eligible.

To clarify, an artillery unit in general or direct support may have elements that are in a dedicated support role. However artillery in direct support has a significantly lower command delay when dedicating any firing elements to units in its chain of command.

Please know that there are going to be some additional tweaks to this process to account for differing artillery doctrines. For instance American, British and German artillery was similar in many ways, but in practice the American and British artillery were in class all their own due to timeliness and flexibility. Then you had Soviet artillery that was highly inflexible, but if all went according to their fire plan it was just as deadly. It is my intent to fully capture these differences.

In my last installment, I will finish this discussion by going through some final explanation examples that I hope will help bring everything together.

Offline Sailor Malan

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Re: Artillery Revisited
« Reply #4 on: August 20, 2017, 06:35:55 PM »
Will the game have realistic nationally diverse artillery doctrine? US/UK flexibility in attachment and control, German closer attachment, but less flexible, Soviet huge power but no flexibility etc? There are good websites covering this, and I do get a little bored of the 'US is always best' and 'UK was inaccurate' myths.

Offline choppinlt

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Re: Artillery Revisited
« Reply #5 on: August 21, 2017, 03:07:03 PM »
Hello Sailor Malan, and welcome!  :) Yes, national artillery doctrines are definitely part of this game. I have spent an immense amount of time trying to capture how this should play out. In fact, I am currently focusing on algorithms to effectively allocate artillery for engagements. I already have algorithms on how to execute all other fire missions, but I have recently been focusing on artillery support for engagements, because it requires a different process. It's a more difficult process than what people may think due to the number of variables involved...

As you mention, US/UK will be the most flexible/responsive artillery due to their doctrine, followed by the Germans, with Soviets being inflexible...but quite volumous to help make up for it!  ;D Sailor Malan I have a fair amount of good information on this topic, HOWEVER if you want to send me website links I am always open for new resources. You can respond here or PM me if you prefer.

Offline Sailor Malan

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Re: Artillery Revisited
« Reply #6 on: August 21, 2017, 10:00:30 PM »
It's a wide topic, and one where there is a big tension between delivering a good tactical game, and a realistic one. In a purely tactical game, artillery can completely unbalance a scenario, or reduce it to a trivial contest. However I have never understood why a larger scale game wouldn't deal better with artillery command and control. With your game, the issue does not arise because (just like really unbalanced force sizes) the artillery heavy battles can just be auto-resolved (or not, sometimes the forlorn hope can be fun to play!) 

There is also a few persistent national myths that just wont lie down (Soviet massive artillery use without the huge lack of flexibility, German responsive artillery without the rigid allocations, and, my favourite, inaccurate British artillery).

I don't any primary sources, but I find the two sites below a good starting point.
http://www.fireandfury.com/artillerytutorial/artytut.shtml
http://nigelef.tripod.com/maindoc.htm

Obviously the first iink breaks the golden rule of not using games as sources!  ;D

Offline choppinlt

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Re: Artillery Revisited
« Reply #7 on: August 23, 2017, 05:40:31 PM »
Agreed it is a big topic, and not always easy to quantify or qualify. Arty can have a massive impact on a tactical level game, and whether or not it is too powerful is always up for debate. I opined in an earlier post that artillery's impact is greatest at the operational level. In short, it helps shape the battlefield as well as take a direct role tactically. I agree with Stalin's quote that artillery is "the god of war". So I want to replicate this as best I can, and the best way I can do this is to incorporate national doctrine. I'm not sure if there has been any aspect regarding game design that I have spent more time on than artillery and its various impacts.
With your game, the issue does not arise because (just like really unbalanced force sizes) the artillery heavy battles can just be auto-resolved (or not, sometimes the forlorn hope can be fun to play!) 
Ha, agreed! It can be fun to relive a Thermopylae...in a game ofcourse... :)

There is also a few persistent national myths that just wont lie down (Soviet massive artillery use without the huge lack of flexibility, German responsive artillery without the rigid allocations, and, my favourite, inaccurate British artillery).

I don't any primary sources, but I find the two sites below a good starting point.
http://www.fireandfury.com/artillerytutorial/artytut.shtml
http://nigelef.tripod.com/maindoc.htm

Obviously the first iink breaks the golden rule of not using games as sources!  ;D

Thanks for the links!  :) As it turns out I have already referenced them both. Nigel's site is particularly fantastic,  :thumbsup and provided some important data.

I will point out that your stated major point of contention is actually affirmed in the Fire and Fury artillery discussion. It states that the British were willing to sacrifice some accuracy for speed. My personal interpretation of these differences is really just splitting hairs, and that the US and British achieved the same relative effect by slightly different methods. So no worries, there is currently no quality difference between US and British arty in Theater of Operations!  8)

I am interested in research/scholastic material on this, so if there is any other solid material you run across I am open to reviewing it. I have reviewed various field manuals, as well as after action reports, case studies, and post-war studies. I am contemplating the addition of the Time on Target attacks to both US and Brit arty. While ToT was used by the US, it's implementation can roughly incorporate the Mike/Uncle etc. type missions the Brits used. I am currently undecided, because I don't want to overstate the relative impact. This is something that I will evaluate during the beta process, but currently it is NOT in use. Otherwise every nation can plan multi battery fire missions.

Currently I am working on allocation of artillery during the engagement process in Theater of Operations. In the first post of this thread I talked about Op Fire Missions. I gave a Case 1 and Case 2. The engagement process (i.e. when a tactical battle occurs) is Case 2. My current design is simple for the attacker. The attacker is allocated the artillery that has been "Dedicated" to the attacking unit through the Battle Group creation process (which is another thread). So my focus has been on how to allocate artillery to defending units in a ground engagement. It has NOT been an easy process to develop computer logic due to all the variables and game mechanisms, but I had a breakthrough in developing this in the last couple of weeks. The basic framework is that engagements are evaluated, and prioritized. Then artillery support "needs" are evaluated for each engagement, then artillery is allocated to those engagements. Sounds simple and straight forward right? Well it is simple at this level, and then you start digging in to the details. Things like predicting future battles need to occur so that artillery doesn't over respond to the initial battles and become unavailable for a battle occurring just a few minutes later that may be a much higher priority . Then it goes on from there with all the other variables and considerations. People may ask why I am doing this, because in reality arty was typically more flexible (especially British and US) and could support multiple engagements simultaneously. The need to assign arty batteries specific engagements to support is necessary to develop an Order of Battle for players of tactical battles.

As always, let me know your thoughts and comments.  :)
« Last Edit: August 23, 2017, 06:38:12 PM by choppinlt »

Offline Sailor Malan

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Re: Artillery Revisited
« Reply #8 on: August 23, 2017, 08:45:23 PM »
Thanks for  your reply, it is really everything I could wish for. I have no beef with the RA (British Army artillery) being a little further out on spotting rounds in a tactical game, but this is often taken to mean their artillery was less effective. I have also seen the 25pdr described as too small for FA work - whereas the RA was supremely skillful at the end of WW1 and whilst some ground was lost interwar, was not bad even in 1939 and recovered ground and forged ahead by 1942. I am not rubbishing anyone else's artillery but for some reason the Brits often get criticism for very poor reasons.

Off immediate topic but my favourite example of this is the much quoted comment (usually allegedly from German sources) that the British "were predictable", taken to mean were easily countered. Whereas in fact the predictability was more a symptom of being thorough and systematic - going the safer 'average' result rather than the 'Hail Mary' win big or lose big option (as British losses in  WW1 could not be repeated). This predictablity didn't enable the Germans to do any better against them. In fact, ironically the Germans were predicitable in a way - the rapid counterattack being the predictable response to most gains, and often (against forces that knew what they were doing) counter productive.

Anyway, back on topic: I don't think you need to think of the artillery allocation problem in response to combat as a "game" problem; it is of course a RL problem too. The artillery commanders have exactly this problem. The solution is to use similar strategies to RL. The AI needs to work out the main point of attack, and give a higher % chance of the artillery going there. I am not sure how, of course ;). The other criterion is which battle the AI would least like to lose based on some scoring system..

Offline choppinlt

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Re: Artillery Revisited
« Reply #9 on: August 24, 2017, 03:24:50 PM »
Thanks for  your reply, it is really everything I could wish for. I have no beef with the RA (British Army artillery) being a little further out on spotting rounds in a tactical game, but this is often taken to mean their artillery was less effective.
You're welcome, and understood. From what I can tell, it has to do with the degree of accuracy. We are not talking 1km CEP! So the CEP is a slightly larger for Brit rounds to fall, but the overall effect was virtually immeasurable. The speed in response could make up for 'inaccuracy', but the inaccuracy introduced could be compensated by a slightly larger dispersion.

I have also seen the 25pdr described as too small for FA work
Regarding the 25 pdr, I understand it to be a fine artillery piece. It has its advantages and disadvantages, just like every other piece. Clearly field artillery only increased in size over the following decades of WWII, but I don't knock the 25 pdr for just being a light artillery piece. It appears to have been fine for its intended role in its day. Sure the 25 pdr was not as heavy as the 105, but it could be fired rapidly to saturate an area, or sustain suppression. I would guess that the smaller shell made it well suited for rolling barrages because of reduced splinter area.

Off immediate topic but my favourite example of this is the much quoted comment (usually allegedly from German sources) that the British "were predictable", taken to mean were easily countered. Whereas in fact the predictability was more a symptom of being thorough and systematic - going the safer 'average' result rather than the 'Hail Mary' win big or lose big option (as British losses in  WW1 could not be repeated). This predictablity didn't enable the Germans to do any better against them.
Interesting side note. Since you bring this up I will mention that there is a factor that is applied to each nation to help capture some of these national differences that can't be directly represented. The best factor being the Germans due to various doctrines, training and, organization. The US and UK both have a reduced factor. A significant reason for the reduced factor of US and UK forces has to do with the manpower dedicated to non-combat roles (e.g. supply, comm, etc.) at the battalion level. The Soviets have the worst factor due to their doctrine and styles, but not by that much. Part of the reason for the small difference between US/UK forces and the Soviets is that some of the unique factors with commanding Soviet forces are directly represented in ToO and therefore don't need to be abstracted. Each nation will have its own unique feel, though the US and Brits are extremely similar. Probably the biggest difference between commanding US and UK forces is how they are equipped and organized, so for that reason alone you get a unique feel. All of this will be a work in progress and will continually be tweaked as development progresses. This gives me an idea for a new thread...Thanks!  8)

Anyway, back on topic: I don't think you need to think of the artillery allocation problem in response to combat as a "game" problem; it is of course a RL problem too. The artillery commanders have exactly this problem. The solution is to use similar strategies to RL. The AI needs to work out the main point of attack, and give a higher % chance of the artillery going there. I am not sure how, of course ;). The other criterion is which battle the AI would least like to lose based on some scoring system..
Very true!  ;D However, in theory a battery could be giving 60% to 1 engagement while giving another concurrent engagement 40% in terms of responding to fire requests. But ToO clearly defines which battery is supporting which engagement for OOB purposes. I think I have it mostly handled at this point, because like you suggest a prioritized list is developed. The good news is that there is a logic to it, but trying to capture the logic with all the variables is what creates the challenge. I can tell you that the basic logic is to apply a range of different arty assets to each engagement, keeping in mind availability, range and other factors. For instance, it would be normal to see a US infantry battalion be supported in defense with a battery of 4.2-in mortars, a battery of 105's and a battery of 155's (assuming they are actually available). Keep in mind that this is in addition to organic arty already present, like battalion mortars. Circumstances may allow more or less arty. There are also limitations that much be applied, otherwise you could theoretically place a single infantry co, dedicate 4 FA Battalions to it, and watch it resist an unrealistic amount of enemy combat power. I know this is ripe for a spirited retort... I am well aware of 2/120 on Hill 314 at Mortain, and that can be replicated. All I am saying is that there is a balance that must be kept in mind.  :sifone


Offline Sailor Malan

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Re: Artillery Revisited
« Reply #10 on: August 31, 2017, 06:49:14 PM »
Completely agree - you seem to have thought about all this very well. In actual fact the Mortain example is a classic test case of an extreme point in the spectrum. The circumstances where a side could afford to dedicate that much support to one Btn and sustain supply are the subject of scenario design.. in other words make sure the system can (not always does!) reproduce that effect then avoid scenarios where it makes sense to do it!

The point with the 25pdr is that it was designed to suppress/neutralise not destroy... as long as the advantages and disadvantages are caught in game (targets get relatively more suppressing effect, but recover after a while). It comes down to what happens to combat with a unit after a rolling barrage has gone across it!  According to Evans, you only need 2/3 the weight of 25pdr fire to get the effect of 155mm against troops in the open/foxholes - although the latter would cause more losses when troops have fortified positions with top cover...

Offline choppinlt

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Re: Artillery Revisited
« Reply #11 on: September 05, 2017, 08:16:17 PM »
Completely agree - you seem to have thought about all this very well.
Thanks! :)

In actual fact the Mortain example is a classic test case of an extreme point in the spectrum. The circumstances where a side could afford to dedicate that much support to one Btn and sustain supply are the subject of scenario design.. in other words make sure the system can (not always does!) reproduce that effect then avoid scenarios where it makes sense to do it!
*BINGO* This is a terrific test case in one extreme. I spent a fair amount of time trying to dissect the circumstances. You can simply say, "OK 1 American infantry battalion can completely halt a German counteroffensive when they have access to 10 battalions of arty". It isn't that simple because the German units were attrited already, they ran in to the same bocage issues the Allies were dealing with, airpower was unrelenting, and the infantry battalion had time to dig in on the hill overlooking the valley.

The point with the 25pdr is that it was designed to suppress/neutralise not destroy... as long as the advantages and disadvantages are caught in game (targets get relatively more suppressing effect, but recover after a while). It comes down to what happens to combat with a unit after a rolling barrage has gone across it!  According to Evans, you only need 2/3 the weight of 25pdr fire to get the effect of 155mm against troops in the open/foxholes - although the latter would cause more losses when troops have fortified positions with top cover...
One advantage of this level of combat is that it deals with the bottom line results. How a battle played out or why it played out a certain way are left up to the players to make up their own story lines or create them when they play it out tactically! To your comment above, size does matter in ToO when it comes to hitting troops in cover, or hard targets.