From: Canberra, Australia
ORIGINAL: Jim D Burns
I am very surprised how easily you repulsed the defenders. A bridge assault usually required extensive close in fighting to carry the day, but by your screen shots it appears the allies retreated before the Germans were within 1 kilometer in most cases and many were 2 km away from any Germans yet retreating.
Direct fire and artillery should cause disruption, disorder and fatigue, but given the mission the allies had, I would think only a total route would cause their commanders to pull back. Any first year cadet knows that to abandon a strong defensive position like a river only opens their forces up to total destruction once the enemy crossed over.
I’d say support weapons and artillery are too powerful by far given these results, some hard close in infantry fighting should have been necessary to carry the day here. Even if the defenders were raw recruits, some close in fighting should have occurred before the retreat.
Thanks for your feedback Jim. I'll respond as best I can here, without having a recording of Mark's game to analyse and report back conclusively. So I'll be going on the screenshots ( just like you ) and what I know of the history and the game engine.
First off, most actions to secure a defended bridge are decided well before the troops actually close. The reason primarily being that most bridges and certainly the ones in Greece were very exposed with virtually no good nearby covered defensive terrain. In most cases the defending troops were easily identified at long range and systematically targeted by arty, air strikes and long range weapons. Tanks do not close unnecessarily. They utilise their best assets - ie long range firepower and armour protection. This was not like the bridges in Holland where average visibility was only 500m due to terrain.
I agree that direct and indirect fire should cause disruption, disorder and fatigue. But that is not all they do. The most telling effect of fire is to cause casualties and casualties adversely affect a units morale. Once the casualties start mounting there reaches a point for the commander and for the troops where they question the feasibility of continuing with their mission. In other words once a certain casualty threshold is reached they will retreat and in some cases rout.
In COTA we differentiate between the two such that retreats are an ordered pull back while a rout is a disorganised fleeing of the field. Units and commanders have varying capacities and attributes that affect this. For units's it's their stubborness, experience, training and morale. For commanders it's their aggro and determination. Other factors also affect the result - specifically the task parameters of Aggro and Acceptable Losses. If these are low then the casualty threshold will be low and hence they will more readily conced ground.
Another factor is the task type and doctrine being employed. For instance if the force was ordered to Delay ( and of course without the recording I cannot confirm this but this was the overall Allied posture ) then the defenders would establish a couple of blocking positions and once the forward position was threatened or the delay route cut or threatened, then they will pull back, leapfrogging past the rear blocking position and establishing a new one. The aim of the delay force is to trade space for time and hopefully minimise friendly casualties while maximising enemy casualties. Not an easy feat for experienced troops let along inexperienced ones.
The more I think about it the more I think the problem is available responses to incoming fire. It appears a unit either holds or retreats in the face of fire. I’d add one more response, go to ground. A unit under direct ranged or artillery fire should automatically receive an order of go to ground. They would then find the best cover within say 100 yards and go to ground. Effectively becoming pinned with a corresponding offensive fire reduction based on their experience, fatigue, disruption level, etc.
In fact there is a whole range of responses or reactions to enemy contact, fire, bombardment, air strike and assault. Units pretty much automatically go to ground when under fire. There are several deployment states - undeployed, taking cover, deployed, dug-in, entrenched and fortified. Units on the move are undeployed. As soon as they receive fire, the first thing they will do is take cover and hopefully deploy ( ie occupy good firing positions ) and then return fire.
The specific reaction depends on a lot of factors, including their mission, their training, experience, fitness, fatigue, morale, proximity to leaders and other reacting units, proximity to enemy, enemy actions etc just to name a few.
Units under fire have their suppression level increased. The amount of suppression varies due to a number of factors, including the terrain, the weight and effectiveness of the enemy fire, whether it is direct or indirect, training and experience and so on.
Units should only be forced to retreat if routed or if facing assault type units (Infantry, Armor, etc.). Support weapons and artillery should not be the deciding factor in capturing ground unless the damage caused is enough to cause a route. At most it should displace a unit to better cover within a short distance of its starting location.
I disagree here. Military history, especially WW2 military history is replete with cases after case of a unit retreating in good order away from an enemy threat before that enemy assaults it. In fact most doctrine and certainly that of the Western European forces of WW2 emphasised the need when delaying to stay long enough to force the enemy to deploy for an attack but to pull out before the main enemy assault. In general the usual trigger was the second or third registration round of supporting artillery fire.
As to whether fire spt or arty should or should not be the deciding factor I think that this very much depends on the state of the defenders defensive positions. At Tempe the Allies had had little time to dig in, let alone entrench. They were not in good shape to withstand a heavy bombardment. In such circumstances hvy weapons and arty can have a field day as they did.
One of the principles of war is Momentum. Once having an enemy on the hop you want to keep him there. You do so by employing the two fundamentals of fire and movement. At the operational level you want to harrass an enemy delaying force with as much long range firepower as you can muster in order to secure the forward movement of your spearhead forces. This principle was well understood by the Germans in WW2 and was standard practice.
Having said all that I have witnessed many battles in COTA where well dug-in defenders have stood their ground against an enemy assault, where the day was only decided at the point of a bayonet or from behind an anti-tank gun firing at point blank range. Jim, rest assured that we have put a lot of work into getting the most realistic operational simulation we can. That is not to say there isn't room for improvements and fine tuning ( hey there is always room for that ).
We do appreciate your feedback. Please don't jump to conclusions on the sole basis of your initial take on this AAR. COTA deserves more than that and you would be denying yourself a great wargaming experience.