the checkerboard defense: practical in real life?

Gary Grigsby’s War in the East: The German-Soviet War 1941-1945 is a turn-based World War II strategy game stretching across the entire Eastern Front. Gamers can engage in an epic campaign, including division-sized battles with realistic and historical terrain, weather, orders of battle, logistics and combat results.

The critically and fan-acclaimed Eastern Front mega-game Gary Grigsby’s War in the East just got bigger and better with Gary Grigsby’s War in the East: Don to the Danube! This expansion to the award-winning War in the East comes with a wide array of later war scenarios ranging from short but intense 6 turn bouts like the Battle for Kharkov (1942) to immense 37-turn engagements taking place across multiple nations like Drama on the Danube (Summer 1944 – Spring 1945).

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randallw
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the checkerboard defense: practical in real life?

Post by randallw »

I've been pondering this, and i'm thinking that the checkerboard strategy, which some people have jumped into, isn't what armies do in real life. It may even run contrary to how things are supposed to be done.

Each hex represents 10 miles. You put a space between two locations of 10 miles that's empty, that's plenty of space for a division to attack through without running into tanks n' infantry trying to hold the ground. You might get harassed by large artillery, but nothing that should prevent you from moving forward. A divisional frontage of 2 or 3 miles gives you lots of space on the sides. Even two divisions attacking through a hex should have space.

Generally, if you have no one protecting your flanks, that's plenty of worry. The enemy can 'turn' them, and now you are in big trouble.

What would I like to see in game terms? Maybe ZOC penalties should have some basing on unit density, not just whether they are a division or brigade ( which don't create ZOC's around them ).
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RE: the checkerboard defense: practical in real life?

Post by jjdenver »

Each hex represents 10 miles. You put a space between two locations of 10 miles that's empty, that's plenty of space for a division to attack through without running into tanks n' infantry trying to hold the ground. You might get harassed by large artillery, but nothing that should prevent you from moving forward. A divisional frontage of 2 or 3 miles gives you lots of space on the sides. Even two divisions attacking through a hex should have space.
I can't speak for the designers but I'd guess that ZOC represents some limited manuever made by defending units since it's an I-GO-U-GO system. I doubt that divisions would sit exactly in place but would rather put up blocking positions and conduct some defensive manuevers/patrols/arty-interdictions/ambushes/counterattacks/etc which is what ZOC represents.
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RE: the checkerboard defense: practical in real life?

Post by Great_Ajax »

The checkerboard strategy has no basis in real life strategy. It is not a valid or viable strategy - its purpose is to suck up MPs through ZOCs to buy time by sacrificing units to the grinder. It is effective in the game but simply not a viable real world strategy. It would require a much larger footprint to increase logistics and command and control. Units would have less support, re-supply, and replacements. Morale would suffer due to there being no units to your flanks and possibly rear. The most devastating affect is dramatically decreased combat power with the unit now having to adopt a hedgehog all around defense while in a linear defense, the unit could focus it combat power forward. Additionally, units using this strategy would have to have a high level of initiative - something the Soviets didn't have. Plus, being a soldier myself, you are confident that your leadership will not sacrifice your life without some chance of success. Try selling a plan to your soldiers to have them operate as a whole 30-100 miles in front of friendly lines with decreased support, against the most fearsome army on the planet and without any flank and rear coverage. Simply wouldn't fly.

Strategy in depth is good. I play the Soviets with around 2-3 major defensive lines with mobile units concentrated for counterattacks and reserves and it works well enough. I find the checkerboard strategy gamey at best.

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RE: the checkerboard defense: practical in real life?

Post by Flaviusx »

It's definitely a product of game mechanic abstractions, although a case can be made that something like this was tried in the blizzard of 1941 by the Germans with their hedgehog defense.

Not a new problem, it's a very old one that has existed in the genre since boardgaming days. For better or worse, it has found its way into this game. So long as wargaming conventions revolve around turns, hex based grids, and ZOCs, this sort of thing is going to pop up in one fashion or another. WitE draws inspiration from the old monster boardgames and has adopted many of those conventions, with all the virtues and vices of same.

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RE: the checkerboard defense: practical in real life?

Post by CarnageINC »

I like to think of ZOC as a Division's scouts and smaller units, there out there just not in the main force in the main hex.  How else can a Division have any influence over that much terrain if you don't think in such a way. The checker board defense is realist if you think this way, its just a defense in depth trying to cover a large area. This is why its so important in RL that you have Division's have contact with another Division. Their not lined up shoulder to shoulder but have a zone of responsibility.
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RE: the checkerboard defense: practical in real life?

Post by Mike Parker »

The checkerboard defense should be imagined to be thin lines rather than the as it looks on the map. Each unit is being asked to spread out and lightly cover alot more ground than normal. So your telling your troops "Interdict the enemy and delay his advance.. and your responsible for a 25 mile front now instead of an 8 mile front"

This is a very real and reasonable order to give your troops in wartime. Now it looks super funny on the map.. but do not think of it as the IGO/UGO and hexagons makes for a gamey tactic, its much more that the Hexagon turn based system makes a legitimate defense look all wonky on the map.
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RE: the checkerboard defense: practical in real life?

Post by squatter »

What this game lacks to reflect the disadvantes of a checkerboard defence are attacker force multipliers for attacks from multiple hex sides. So if you leave a 10km gap in your line, enemy units can occupy this terrain and turn your units from the side. Currently, a unit can face simultaneous assault from front and rear, and have the same chance of victory as if both attackers are coming through the same 10k channel.
 
The SSG games innovated on this, and frankly this should be an industry-standard board game mechanic. If implemented here, it would properly reflect the weaknesses of checkboard defence.
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RE: the checkerboard defense: practical in real life?

Post by Great_Ajax »

I don't buy it. One of the best operational tactics is to find a boundary between two units and exploit it. The reason units have influence over adjacent hexes is that now in order to move past an enemy unit, you have to tuck in your support elements to protect them from flank and rear attacks which slows you down and from the 'friction' between two adjacent units. Your units aren't lined shoulder to shoulder for sure but they definitely better have interlocking fields of fire with your adjacent unit or you are asking to get your flanks rolled. Scouts and recon don't normally deploy to the sides but along the main enemy avenue of approach from which your unit is oriented to defend. Its the job of other friendly units on the line to protect your flanks.

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I like to think of ZOC as a Division's scouts and smaller units, there out there just not in the main force in the main hex.  How else can a Division have any influence over that much terrain if you don't think in such a way. The checker board defense is realist if you think this way, its just a defense in depth trying to cover a large area. This is why its so important in RL that you have Division's have contact with another Division. Their not lined up shoulder to shoulder but have a zone of responsibility.
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RE: the checkerboard defense: practical in real life?

Post by Great_Ajax »

BOOM. You got it.

Trey

ORIGINAL: squatter

What this game lacks to reflect the disadvantes of a checkerboard defence are attacker force multipliers for attacks from multiple hex sides. So if you leave a 10km gap in your line, enemy units can occupy this terrain and turn your units from the side. Currently, a unit can face simultaneous assault from front and rear, and have the same chance of victory as if both attackers are coming through the same 10k channel.

The SSG games innovated on this, and frankly this should be an industry-standard board game mechanic. If implemented here, it would properly reflect the weaknesses of checkboard defence.
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RE: the checkerboard defense: practical in real life?

Post by Mehring »

What this game lacks to reflect the disadvantes of a checkerboard defence are attacker force multipliers for attacks from multiple hex sides.

Likewise, units atacking from various directions will often be from different formations. To attack a large stack effectively, they will necessarily be so unless one HQ is penalised for overloading subordinates. But the current set up gets you one way or the other. If you avoid overloading your HQs, you get bashed for multi HQ attacks.
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RE: the checkerboard defense: practical in real life?

Post by jjdenver »

Good points made in this thread. But I think the bottom line is that this is a game that covers operational and strategic topics - not tactics. So there are going to be abstractions - just like every other operational and strategic level board/computer game has them. If you want detailed and realistic tactical manuevering there are games that focus on that - but that's not this game.

I like the idea of multiple hexside attack bonus that SSG implemented but keep in mind that it's on a much smaller scale (1 or 2 miles per hex and battalion/regiment sized units) than this game so it's more of a grand tactical/operational level game (depending on whether you're talking about Battlefront or Kharkov system).
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RE: the checkerboard defense: practical in real life?

Post by notenome »

Woah there, there are not bonuses for flank attacks in WitE???

If I have this set up (where x's are attacking O's):

x  x
0

It is the same as this?


x

0

x

????

As for the checkerboard, to me it is a defense in depth/economy of force strategy as was advocated by different generals as a means to stop the blitzkrieg, and by several German generals after 41. Instead of holding a continuous line, you create strong points to soften enemy defenses. The diference is that instead of using it within an elastic defense framework, it is being used as a speed bump by the Soviets until they get troop strength up (and mind you, the Soviets DID use something very aking to a checkerboard very often in 41, countless Soviet blocking divisions were crushed/encircled/bypassed during the summer offensive, especially in the South below the Dnepr.
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RE: the checkerboard defense: practical in real life?

Post by Flaviusx »

If you're attacking a checkerboard defense with deliberate attacks on multiple hexsides, you're doing it wrong and spending far more movement points than necessary to punch through.

The whole point of the checkerboard is to chew up enemy movement points; therefore adding some kind of bonus for flank attacks achieves nothing. It will indeed make a checkerboard more attractive as opposed to a linear defense, which is far more vulnerable to deliberate attacks with flanks. The most economical fashion to clear checkerboards is with hasty attacks launched in echelon. The individual hexes themselves are not held in strength and deliberate assaults on them are necessarily uneconomical and making it even more effective from the defender's standpoint.

Now, if the game allowed for hasty attacks to be launched on multiple hexsides, then that would be a different story.



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RE: the checkerboard defense: practical in real life?

Post by mmarquo »

There is more depth which needs to be considered here: I do not think there are bonuses for the pincer flank attack as opposed to the flank attack; however the difference is the attrition inflicted during retreat. Also the checkerboard defense allows for much greater odds against the individual units since they are spread out for the defense in depth - this leads to more routs and shatter.
 
I like to imagine the checkerboard as the static representation of a carefully choreographed dynamic mobile defense - since the system is IGO UGO one has to imagine that things are really going on simultaneously. anyway it is great fun.
 
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RE: the checkerboard defense: practical in real life?

Post by Redmarkus5 »

ORIGINAL: el hefe

The checkerboard strategy has no basis in real life strategy. It is not a valid or viable strategy - its purpose is to suck up MPs through ZOCs to buy time by sacrificing units to the grinder. It is effective in the game but simply not a viable real world strategy. It would require a much larger footprint to increase logistics and command and control. Units would have less support, re-supply, and replacements. Morale would suffer due to there being no units to your flanks and possibly rear. The most devastating affect is dramatically decreased combat power with the unit now having to adopt a hedgehog all around defense while in a linear defense, the unit could focus it combat power forward. Additionally, units using this strategy would have to have a high level of initiative - something the Soviets didn't have. Plus, being a soldier myself, you are confident that your leadership will not sacrifice your life without some chance of success. Try selling a plan to your soldiers to have them operate as a whole 30-100 miles in front of friendly lines with decreased support, against the most fearsome army on the planet and without any flank and rear coverage. Simply wouldn't fly.

Strategy in depth is good. I play the Soviets with around 2-3 major defensive lines with mobile units concentrated for counterattacks and reserves and it works well enough. I find the checkerboard strategy gamey at best.

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RE: the checkerboard defense: practical in real life?

Post by Magnum88 »

Another solution could be a malus for defenders with enemy units on multiple side, representing their need to dilute their forces to protect a wider front. An attacker would not suffer as much because he has the iniative and can decide to concentrate his forces for the attack, sacifricing his flanks. Also, why do all units exert the same reduction in MPs? If a panzer division is rolling past a half-strength border regiment it is not expending as much effort protecting its flanks as against a full strength tank corps, so the MP reduction should be variable tied to the theat (preceived or actual)..
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RE: the checkerboard defense: practical in real life?

Post by Redmarkus5 »

Good comment. How about a defence bonus based on stacking and having friendly units in the next hex? This would reflect some real life benefits of a cohesive front line and encourage players to act in a more realistic fashion...
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RE: the checkerboard defense: practical in real life?

Post by JAMiAM »

I'm not entirely convinced that the checkerboard defense is all that practical in the game - let alone real life. There are limited instances where it is useful, and given the scale of the game, plausible, due to counter density and presumed unit front coverages. However, as Flaviusx mentions, there is an effective counter - hasty attacks in echelon - that not only negate the supposed advantages but actually make the technique dangerous for the one employing it.

When a line is "solid" an attacker must destroy, or displace/rout at least three units to achieve a breakthrough path of a single hex width. That is, unimpeded by ezocs along the frontline. Any of these attacks may fail, or be required to be launched multiple times to eventually succeed. Each of these attacks will burn MPs for the attacking units. Behind a solid line might lie your reserves, and secondary positions that can extend ezocs into the hexes immediately behind the front. These forces should be (generally) laid out in a somewhat "checkerboard" fashion to maximize ezoc coverage. Beyond that though, additional defense in depth by a 8-10 hex deep checkerboard zone is a waste of forces and opens up the defender to dedicated echelon attacks that upon destroying, or displacing/routing a single unit at a time allows for deep penetrations along a wider front due to the next units in the checkerboard being 2-3 hexes away.

In short, I think the technique is overused by unexperienced players, and it becomes a crutch that they improperly rely on, way beyond its time of opportunity. Like any crutch, if you kick it out from under them, they will be left wondering wtf happened, and why the "common wisdom" didn't apply here...[;)]
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RE: the checkerboard defense: practical in real life?

Post by Redmarkus5 »

Excellent points. However, for those of who play the Soviet AI, have you seen the way it handles defence in depth in July '41? Some method for making that unappealing even to an AI 'player' is needed, IMO. It just doesn't feel realistic.
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RE: the checkerboard defense: practical in real life?

Post by Sabre21 »

Well I have to disagree with Trey on this one having been the one that came up with this in game. I based it on my own experience as a cavalry scout, both from the land and air, to create this defense which is nothing new really in military strategies.
 
It is based off of the Economy of Force type mission. Someone above pointed that out above and has a good eye for what he was seeing. Back in my ground scout days, we never had enough troops to cover an entire divisional frontage, so we used combat outposts in depth covering key avenues of approach with overlapping fields of view with each other. Many times we couldn't see each other but our fires usually overlapped, if not direct then definitely indirect. These outposts provided early warning to the commander at the main line of defense and gave him time to react accordingly. This screenline could be to the front or on the flanks. The Cavalry also provided rear area security in many instances too.
 
This type of defense has many names...skirmish lines, hedgehog, economy of force...and lately coined by another tester...checkerboard. This type of defense dates back centuries and is nothing new. Placing a screen line to your front as early warning and to slow your enemy down has been used quite often. It is not designed to stop your enemy, just determine where their main axis of advance is and slow them down. It works pretty well in game to that effect.
 
The fact that I use this on a large scale should be of no surprise either. Back in the 80's, our armored cav regiments and divisional cavalry practised this type of thing on a regular basis. The ACR was the covering force for the entire corps. The width and depth depended on terrain.
 
So when you look at it from a game perspective, using a minimum number of units placed in such a way with connecting or overlapping zones of control is nothing different than what the cavalry is trained to do. I just happen to use whatever unit is available as a Soviet player and assign them that mission...pretty much die in place as cavalry troopers are known to say.
 
So despite what some might think, this was based on real world military strategy and it seems to work as well in game as it does in real life.
 
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