From: Houston, TX
Modeling operational losses in TOAW. This is mostly a scenario design update on some approaches I am using in 'EF'
TOAW does not have an explicit way to simulate operational losses (or wear and tear) of equipment and the significant losses that an army suffers from illnesses, accidents and low level combat in quiet parts of the front due to mines, patrol action and snipers. In TOAW as units lose equipment due to movement, it goes straight to the replacement pool, meaning that it gets 100% repaired. However, in real life tanks rust in the rain and snow, axles and tracks break beyond repair, soldiers get sick or become injured, equipment beyond repair is scrapped or abandoned. For example the operational life of a Russian T34 tank was estimated in the order of 100 combat hours, if it was lucky enough not to end in the crosshair of an 88mm AT gun. Another connected problem is that it is not obvious how to scrap obsolete equipment and squads from units. In both cases equipment that should have been retired long ago stays in a unit until destroyed in combat. While Panzer divisions surely kept a small share of old tanks, overall this is very unrealistic as it leads to a unit 'overloaded' with equipment, way above what their support structure would allow. Last but not least, units in quiet parts of the front tend to fill up to the brim with replacements, while in real life they would probably be slowly stripped of assets (a good example is Army Group North after 1942).
To summarize, I have been thinking about:
- 1) how to simulate wear and tear of equipment and squads that is not due to combat.
- 2) how to remove obsolete material from units.
- 3) how to avoid loading with excessive replacements units in quiet sectors.
All the above problems become relevant in long campaigns with significant changes in equipment (this post is motivated by developing my "Eastern Front 41-45 scenario), or, in general, when an army goes through several phases with low action followed by intensive campaigns. Here are the options I came up with, some are relatively new and so I decided to share them with fellow designers. All are quite transparent to players.
1) reduce the equipment replacement rate to account for operational losses. Typical values would be 25% for Red Army tanks in 1941 or
the Whermacht late in the war (retreating armies have a hard time recovering or just repairing damaged equipment). This is the
simplest approach and it works well for short scenarios where the initiative does not change hands (a good example would be the
Ardennes offensive). This method however, as it assumes a constant breakdown of equipment, does not work well in long scenarios, where units should be allowed to 'stock up' on equipment during the pauses in the campaign. Also, what if, for any reason, the scenario plays out more static than historical? Surely operational losses should be lower....so it'd not work well in 'EF'.
2) Introduce a 'sink unit'. This is a new idea (?) I have tested recently and introduced in the next version (v2.1, due in June?)) of 'Eastern Front'. It's simple: a unit in garrison mode is placed on the map away from the reach of players and with empty equipment slots. When a unit takes losses some equipment will be resent to the replacement pool. Once there, some of them will trickle in the 'sink' unit, never to come back. This approach works well for obsolete equipment, which would otherwise be available forever until destroyed in combat. Instead, the equipment will keep working..until it is sent to the replacement pool, where it has a chance to get scrapped (again by ending into the sink unit). Different sink units may arrive and then withdraw at different times, to soak in different obsolete equipment, or to represent times when operational losses become significant. To efficiently scrap obsolete equipment the sink unit will need a higher replacement priority than the active unit. To model operational losses, its' priority should be lower. Without using option 2, by Spring 1942 both sides in Eastern Front end with about 1000 too many old tanks per side, this in turn may cause too many infantry losses, eventually unbalancing the scenario.
3) Pestilence effects. This works well for infantry, as for each level of pestilence, 0.5% of squads is permanently destroyed and 0.5% gets returned to the replacements pool. All equipment is returned to the pool. A number of Pestilence events can be used to regulate the amount of losses that come from non related combat events. Now, this approach has also a useful side effect: equipement and squads rarely return to units with low priority for replacements, avoiding the problem of filling up units in quiet sectors. Instead those units fill up to a level that is in equilibrium with the rest of the front. In EF infantry units (especially in AGN) have a low replacement priority an have a chronically low TOEs, while Panzer units (and late war units) tend to get most replacements. Over all I have found this approach very effective, with the exception that equipment is never permanently lost (and so adding option 2 as well).
None of these approaches is optimal, together they give the designer some options to model operational losses. I am already using option 3 (Pestilence effects) and currently testing option 2 (Sink units).
One other idea would be to remove all of a side's supply points by event for a turn - return them the next turn. Give it a 5% chance of triggering and it will occur about every 20 turns, but neither side will know just when (to prevent the enemy from synching heavy combat with the unsupplied turn).
This would have the most impact when units had been in heavy action (lots of red lights), and least when they had been in a lull period (lots of green lights) - kind of realistic.
I've never tried anything like it, though.