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Offline choppinlt

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National Characteristics
« on: August 28, 2017, 04:22:12 PM »
A common question I get is "what are you trying to re-create with ToO?" Well I am NOT simply trying to re-create history. I am trying to simulate various situations that commanders faced at different levels of command, and then allow players to step in to that role. I want players to get a taste of command. I hear people questioning/criticizing why various decisions were made by commanders, or why things weren't applied in a certain way. It is typically due to the information at hand coupled with national doctrine; how that particular nation designed, trained, and equipped their forces to execute the instrument of war. I want to give players flexibility to make their own decisions on a course of action without pidgeonholing them. On the other hand, commanders had to assess their force and capabilities then plan accordingly. With this in mind each nation will bring it's own characteristics to the ToO battlefield.

I also want to mention that I have written in previous posts about unit characteristics that are directly modeled in ToO. Things like experience level, morale, cohesion, supply level, maintenance level, and leadership are all directly factored in for different units. All different weapons systems are modeled and factored in too, but there are some intangibles that are most effectively abstracted. This is captured with what we have termed the Combat Efficiency Rating (CER) that tries to capture those abstractions in to a single number and applied to the forces of each nation. This factor is in the "background" (i.e. it isn't seen), and it does NOT need to be considered by players. It is built-in to the various different information screens for the players (i.e. the User Interface/UI), so just know that it is there.

Below I will shed some of the characteristics that will be seen when commanding various different forces. This is likely to be tweaked over the course of development, so new characteristics may come up. Furthermore, doctrine evolves over the course of a large and protracted conflict, so keep in mind that the following characteristics describe where each nation was at in mid 1944.

Germany

German forces valued individual initiative and fostered this in its training as a key building block to their concept of blitzkrieg warfare. When the Germans put their blitzkrieg doctrine in to practice it met with unprecedented success. Due to continual refining of their doctrine and practices the abilities of German forces continued to improve until a rapid decline the last few months of the war, despite growing shortages and overwhelming enemy forces. The Germans had a highly effective command and control system, efficient unit organization, great training, and highly effective weaponry. As a result the Germans have the highest combat efficiency rating (Osttruppen are an exception). They were also quite adept at forming kampfgruppes (general game term in ToO is "Battle Group" or "BG") for a given situation, and will form them a bit more efficiently (i.e. in less time) than other nations. Couple this with the weapons at their disposal and the Germans are a highly effective force to command. German units should generally have higher leadership ratings more often, and slightly higher experience levels.

The most obvious difference between the Germans compared to the US/UK is artillery. In a world of limited resources, the Germans did NOT fully develop their artillery methods after WWI. As a result the German artillery was not nearly as effective as the American and British artillery it faced. German artillery can be in General Support, Direct Support, and Dedicated Support roles, and can perform any fire mission with precision, however the artillery will not be as responsive for targets of opportunity.  In ToO this means that defending units will generally have less access to Direct and General support artillery. Additionally, when enemy units are spotted moving (not in combat) the amount and frequency of Op Fire missions fulfilled will be noticeably less.


Americans

The US Army grew over 42 times its own size from the beginning of WWII (the invasion of Poland) to the invasion of Fortress Europa. Despite serious growing pains the US army continued to quickly improve itself. By 1944 the Americans were far more proficient than the force that faced the Germans in North Africa in 1943, and German commanders quickly took notice. The US forces fielded were also lavishly equipped, particularly with motor vehicles and communication equipment. The Americans were able to achieve a level of mechanization the Germans could only dream of. Therefore the Americans made up lots of ground qualitatively, and only have a slightly lower CER than the Germans at this point in the war. A significant factor for a lower CER is simply due to unit organization.* The plethora of vehicles and communication equipment resulted in an excellent communication system that helped make up for some of the growing pains. The US had also become far more adept at forming combat teams (i.e. Battle Groups) than in the earlier phases of the war, and these combined arms combat teams were frequently used. While the US faced supply issues in NW Europe this was almost exclusively due to the complications of transatlantic transportation and offloading on to a beach (i.e. a lack of ports). Otherwise the supply system was outstanding. If the resource is available 'globally' in ToO then it can quickly be brought forward. One area of criticism was the US system of replacement depots (aka repple depple) . The one advantage it gave was to quickly introduce replacements to frontline units, and as a result the same unit could stay in contact with the enemy for prolonged periods. The drawbacks included a lack of proper training at the depot, and plus the way most depot's were managed resulted in lower morale for the replacements. Perhaps the most undervalued issue at the time was unit integration and cohesiveness when introducing replacements. As a result of the repple depples US forces receive replacements quicker, but there will be a bigger drop in experience levels than most nations. Players may not be able to easily see this, but it will be a factor.

While the US Army suffered various growing pains perhaps the combat arm receiving the most consistent praise was the artillery. US artillery firepower was eclipsed by no one in terms of effectiveness and efficiency. High praise from all echelons of command coupled with enemy interrogations speak to how well developed the artillery methods were. As a result the US has highly flexible artillery that can perform any mission in the General Support, Direct Support, and Dedicated Support roles. What makes US artillery especially effective was that they could fire for effect 3-5 times faster with nearly the same accuracy as their German counterparts. Magnifying the situation was the ability for 'quiet' batteries to thicken some of the higher priority missions, and all of this could be done in a manner (Time on Target concept) to bring all the artillery down at the same time to maximize surprise.

*US forces were "fatter" due to a significant amount of non-combat troops assigned to battalions. While the US organization had certain advantages (like more organic supply) this needs to be factored in to developing a unit's combat power. The best way to explain is rifle strength. An infantryman and supply soldier are both issued the same basic fighting equipment. On paper they appear to be equal. While the supply soldier can fight in times of emergency, they should NOT be counted equally to the infantryman in terms of 'bayonet strength' of a battalion.


British

The British had been fighting Jerry (Germans) since 1939, and by 1944 there was a certain war weariness that accompanied that experience. With the fighting in India/Burma, North Africa Italy, and now France the manpower pool was not deep enough to withstand heavy casualties. In ToO you will typically see a lower percentage of available replacements as a result. British doctrine was typically employed with a methodical and cautious approach when attacking to prevent casualties, but they were quite resolute on the defense. Some may judge the cautious approach as a criticism, but it would be fair to say that this approach was safer for Tommy (the British). I have some ideas how this will be brought out in ToO, but I don't have it completely ironed out yet. I think it will be shown as a slighly lower rate of advance in combat coupled with a slightly lower casualty rate. Then post-engagement "recovery" time will be slightly increased to reflect the doctrine of consolidation after a battle. And while the American Army was suffering from various growing pains, the British Army was dealing with somewhat of a metamorphosis of their own. Therefore the British share the same CER as US forces do. I find it interesting to read various criticisms by British authors regarding the British army in WWII. While much of the criticism may be true or fair to point out my opinion is that the British Army must have been doing something right, because they got the job done! When it came time to invade the continent Tommy was well equipped for the task at hand, and had gotten more proficient with forming combined arms battle groups than earlier in the war or other theaters.

If US artillery was eclipsed by no one, then British artillery was its equal in terms of effectiveness and efficiency. British artillery was highly flexible and responsive and can perform any mission in the General Support, Direct Support and Dedicated Support roles. British artillery was adept at many complex fire maneuvers, but what set the US and British artillery apart from the rest was its ability to engage targets of opportunity. In fluid situations British artillery would generally arrive a bit faster than US fire mission requests, but some accuracy was sacrificed for timeliness. This resulted in British batteries being able to respond up to 6 times faster to fire mission requests than Jerry. To help offset any potential inaccuracy a larger dispersion was typically used. Perhaps the characteristic that set the British apart from US artillery was a willingness...an expectation... to share and coordinate artillery between large units (e.g. divisions). In ToO this will be directly represented. Furthermore, British artillery can call "MIKE" targets, which is similar to the US Time on Target attack. I find it interesting to point out that the US and British developed fire methods after WWI independently, yet they arrived at very similar conclusions.


Soviets

It could be argued that there were more similarities than differences between the US, UK, and German doctrines and organizations by 1944. Well the Soviets had their own ideas and limiting factors that make the Soviet forces the most unique force to command in ToO. By 1944 the Soviets had amassed a large army including vast amounts of armor to turn back the invasion. The Soviets put together powerful forces that were very difficult for the Germans to confront head-on at this point. These powerful forces were also unwieldy in terms of complicated maneuver, therefore the Soviets epitomized the term 'hammer blow' when unleashing its forces. As a result the Germans would commonly play the matador in a bullfight (or in this case a 'bear fight') and attack them obliquely. Soviet generals have been criticized for their style, but by 1944 I would argue that the Soviet generals assessed their forces and used them in a manner that played to their abilities. The Soviets also showed the greatest overall improvement in terms of their military effectiveness over the course of WWII. As a result the Soviets have only a slightly lower CER than US/UK forces by 1944. Despite any criticism of Soviet methods, the Soviets were capable of great operational deception ('maskirovka)'. Soviet forces were also credited with being able to take position and dig-in with great speed. And finally, it has to be mentioned that the sacrifice in lives the Soviets endured was staggering. All of the above will be directly accounted for in ToO. You will see that the Soviets suffer a noticeably higher casualty rate, and their units will have noticeably larger response times when issuing or changing orders which will make them less flexible and responsive to changing situations. Therefore it is best to give clear and limited orders. Additionally, the Soviets preferred set-piece battles, and forces would rehearse their script days in advance. I plan to capture this in some way, though I suspect many scenarios will start with with this in already in effect. You will notice in ToO that Soviet resupply is slower in general, and almost non-existent for moving units due to the complications of supply the Soviets had to deal with. This plays in to Soviet doctrine calling for echelon style attacks. When the first wave ran out of supplies, suffered too many casualties, and/or reached their objective a follow-on force would come through to continue the advance. The first echelon can then rest, recover and resupply until it is time for it to continue the advance. Finally, Soviet forces were less consistent with their performance. This doesn't mean "bad", this means they performed at extreme highs and extreme lows more often, and it could seemingly vary from day to day. You can expect the same in ToO.

The Soviets maintained their centuries long Russian adoration for artillery. Stalin is quoted as saying "artillery is the god of war", and the Soviets employed lots of it to great effect. They produced some of the finest artillery pieces of the war, however Soviet fire control methods were a different matter. Given time, the Soviets would develop detailed (not complex) fire plans with great volumes of fire, but Soviet artillery was not well equipped to engage in "targets of opportunity" like the western Allies. In fact, there was a preference to use artillery in a direct fire role when feasible. As a result there is no general support capability. Units that are NOT in Dedicated support or Direct Support are still in General Support in ToO terms, but they won't be eligible to do anything except planned missions and counterbattery (CB). Only particular units will be capable of CB missions when applicable. Otherwise Opportunity fire can and will occur for the Soviets, but with great infrequency. I am still working out the exact details of Soviet artillery.

**It is my understanding that replacements to units (in terms of how the western armies accomplished it) was NOT a common practice. It is my understanding that Soviet forces would be pulled out well behind the line and merged, rebuilt with replacements, and/or disbanded and reform a new unit. I do know the Soviets were dealing with a real manpower crunch at this time as well. If anyone can correct me if I am wrong, then please let me know

Feel free to comment!  :)
« Last Edit: September 18, 2017, 05:13:47 PM by choppinlt »

Offline Sailor Malan

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Re: National Characteristics
« Reply #1 on: August 31, 2017, 06:26:48 PM »
Good luck with this, as national characteristics is a subject very likely to provoke heat as well as light! If I might comment on your post, your description is good for mid war (say Sept 1940 to mid 1944) Germans. Prior to the French campaign, only a part of the German army was this good - there were a lot of second line and worse units. I am not saying that your description doesn't fit the best units, but that there were significant numbers of worse units. The German practice of training recruits in divisional training Btns tended to mean that inexperienced units tended to stay that way until committed to combat. The leadership style is probably universal but the troops quality is not.

After the invasion of France the troops were at their peak - most units now had experience and the physical quality of the men was still the best. After losses in Russia (winter 1941 and Stalingrad), physical quality starts dropping, and after Bagration and Normandy, they were scraping the barrel, Thus the units would be a kernel of veterans and a lot of old/sick/tired. Thus they should be variable again, although the most telling change might be brittleness - relatively less staying power (once they lose a few veterans they decline quickly). The SS are an exception, but even they weren't all elite.

The key to German effectiveness is a disregard for unit preservation... it stayed in place until far weaker than would have been ever acceptable in a western army. You don't get allied units with 10% manpower still in the front line...

Offline choppinlt

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Re: National Characteristics
« Reply #2 on: September 05, 2017, 07:10:00 PM »
FYI, I added a new section to the post...

Ha, thanks Sailor!  ;D Every force had its strengths and things that made it unique to command. So I am trying to capture differences without sounding judgemental and applying it to how it will work in ToO. Hopefully it comes off that way...

So yes, the descriptions apply to mid 1944, which is where ToO will start its focus with. And thanks for the comments. You mention that German unit preservation was viewed differently, and I agree. You are correct that US/UK units were pulled out long before they reached 10%. While I havn't thoroughly studied this, my understanding is that the Germans commonly did this more out of necessity rather than choice.

You mentioned the German replacements, my understanding was that they had a pretty good replacement system. Clearly getting replacements at all was a challenge, but the system with how they were handled was pretty good. Do you have a good reference on this? Perhaps I should study this a bit more...
« Last Edit: September 08, 2017, 02:46:58 AM by choppinlt »

Offline choppinlt

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Re: National Characteristics
« Reply #3 on: September 07, 2017, 07:56:22 PM »
FYI, I added another section to this post!  :)

Offline A Canadian Cat

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Re: National Characteristics
« Reply #4 on: September 07, 2017, 09:56:11 PM »
What you have written sounds pretty fair to me. Making it clear you are talking about the performance of these forces in a given time window is really important in deflecting some of the heat that @Sailor Malan mentioned. Likely there will be some discord around this no matter what you do but honestly just reflect the research you did stick to your guns when explaining it and the majority of players will respect the decisions.

Offline Sailor Malan

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Re: National Characteristics
« Reply #5 on: September 07, 2017, 10:06:32 PM »
In terms of German replacements, I was referring to 1939-40 so they dont really apply to your start point of 1944. I agree with pretty much everything else you say. The British approach was 100% designed to limit British casualties.

I always liken it to dice rolling: if the the highest roll wins, and you can chose what dice to roll, but you roll the same dice again for casualties, the US would likely chose a single d12, but the British would choose 2d6. Why? with a d12 the chance of rolling 12 is 8.3% but with 2d6 it is 2.8%. The mean result is the same, and the chance of winning is even, but the chance of winning big (or, more importantly, paying big) is much higher with d12. The British would deem it to be not worth the risk. You can always play twice if you dont win big... The US (and Germans) would choose d12.

Offline choppinlt

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Re: National Characteristics
« Reply #6 on: September 18, 2017, 05:04:53 PM »
FYI, the Soviets have been posted.  :)

Thanks Cat and Sailor for the comments. I believe characteristics like this are what really gives a game of this type flavor! Also Sailor, I like your analogy with the dice rolling, as this has given me some additional ideas.  8)

 

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