The Damn Artillery

Command Ops: Battles From The Bulge takes the highly acclaimed Airborne Assault engine back to the West Front for the crucial engagements during the Ardennes Offensive. Test your command skills in the fiery crucible of Airborne Assault’s “pausable continuous time” uber-realistic game engine. It's up to you to develop the strategy, issue the orders, set the pace, and try to win the laurels of victory in the cold, shadowy Ardennes.
Command Ops: Highway to the Reich brings us to the setting of one of the most epic and controversial battles of World War II: Operation Market-Garden, covering every major engagement along Hell’s Highway, from the surprise capture of Joe’s Bridge by the Irish Guards a week before the offensive to the final battles on “The Island” south of Arnhem.

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Tzar007
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The Damn Artillery

Post by Tzar007 »

I have been playing Elsenborn Ridge and Höfen Ho-Down as Germans, and one thing I am painfully realizing is that it is almost impossible to move German units in daylight on clear, uncovered ground.

The enemy artillery smash them in pieces and inevitably it all ends up in a chaotic routing retreat. Some units get up to 50% of casualties, making them basically unfit for further combat (especialloy those Volksgrenadier soldiers, not that much combat-worthy to start with).

How do you guys deal with this ? Marching over clear ground only at night (and thus getting penalized with much more fatigue and having to rest during the day?) Get a lot of troops to march over a broad front so that by offering too many highly dispersed targets to the enemy, at least some of them we'll manage to ge to the objective without being pounded ?

I wonder what's the best course of action here.

Lieste
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RE: The Damn Artillery

Post by Lieste »

Artillery is always a nuisance - the only thing you can do at the start is ensure that your units follow 'unexpected' routes to the FUP - often his first barrage will fall on the 'best' route. They should also be careful to form up out of sight, preferably after a hidden approach march. If this is also close to the enemy position you may get into danger close before his first artillery arrives.

Once your troops are in direct sight/contact they needn't continue their advance, the first wave can be set to defend what they have, and dig in - with luck this will protect them from direct fires, observation and indirect fire to some extent. A flanking force can continue the attack, or the same units can resume the advance from their current location if their fire-superiority drives off the defenders. Be very careful of how you handle any passage of lines though - this is an ideal artillery target - a moving unit and a static target in the same time/space is a guarantee for trouble.

If your recce troops infiltrate and pass into the rear of the enemy line you may force the displacement of HQ/Supply/Artillery units, or at the least spot them firing so that you can target accurate CB fires... even without a firm contact, it is worth harassing his rear-area units - reserves may be prevented from moving, HQ may be disrupted preventing subordinates getting new orders, supply units may lose personnel and vehicles - or may even rout losing much of their dumped supply, or artillery may be disrupted for up to an hour - or even lose tubes, though this is rarer.
Phoenix100
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RE: The Damn Artillery

Post by Phoenix100 »

In Hofen I tried at first only attacking at night, but lost a lot of crucial time like that. You can walk the 751 into Hofen sth virtually uncontested in quickest time right at the start of the scenario (Move order - two separate Move orders, one to the battallion, and one to the Regimental HQ - if you give just to Regiment it takes too long and you won't make the building line before 7am! If you give Attack orders you'll be in the open and pounded because they still take too long to execute). This way you can occupy the objective before 7am when the real arty starts(when the light means you're easily spotted, I think). The objective itself isn't covered at scenario start it seems, but clearing the enemy units from around it takes me the rest of the scenario, if I manage at all. Mostly I've found that, in Hofen, the VG will only retreat/rout if they get bombarded in the open or on the move - so get them into Hofen sth and let them dig in there, then try to clear it afterwards (at night), by widening your defensive square. Hofen nth is harder. What I've done is move the 753 into hfn Sth also. Again, you can [sometimes - it's not as certain as with the 751] do this before 7am and the start of the good light/arty, if you do two separate Move orders, to the battallion and Regiment. Then when they're all sorted you can order an attack during the next night onto Hfn nth, from hfn sth. I always send the I-752 around the back of Muntzenich, into the wooods, rest them there until 11pm, then order an attack on Muntzenich. It takes the Regiment, or battalion anything between an hour and three hours to plan and execute the attack, but they usually get into Muntzenich before dawn and the real arty threat - then again the prob is to try to clear the objective, but at least you're in cover then. I send the II- 751 into the hfn nth attack, usually, by night. And the II-752 into Monschau. So far, with the patch and these strategies I've not suffered terribly from arty, though I have only scored marginal vics, mainly because it's proving harder to clear the enemy from around the held objectives with this patch.

I haven't played Elsenborn for a long while as Axis. I got very dispirited when I did try it before (a year ago, maybe), because i couldn't see how the Axis could ever even scrape a draw (for the reasons you've mentioned, amongst others - there's so much ground to cover you can't just do everything at night, though this is what the Axis tried as much as possible in reality), though I'm sure other, better players manage that.
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Tzar007
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RE: The Damn Artillery

Post by Tzar007 »

Phoenix, I think you put your finger on one of the things I do wrong: since I'm concerned of doing too much micromanagement, I'm using only regiments to perform attacks. It takes indeed so long for the regiment to get the orders down that I get caught up in broad daylight when planning a night march or attack. Also, as you suggest, moving with guns blazing instead of doing a full-fledged assault that takes a lot of time to prepare and launch is probably better.
Phoenix100
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RE: The Damn Artillery

Post by Phoenix100 »

Well, I think I've heard a few people in here say that there are many issues with Moving (no rest, attacks checked, stragglers unchecked, in this case, for max speed and flexibility of attack) and fatigue etc and that it's better to do attacks (if you want to attack, and not move only) if you don't want to exhaust the men etc, but with the arty problem being so acute - as you pointed out - (and as it was in RL) you can literally end up with all your plans in ruins because the VGD are routing because they've got HE landing on them, so in many scenarios I still think it's feasible and better - where time is an issue - to get into the objectives fast (and take cover), before you're spotted and hammered - in which case Move is great, and if you give Move commands to Regiment it certainly does take longer for things to happen. This situation is not so good, I think. If I want to move a regiment to Hofen sth, say, then, surely, the realistic thing is to give the single order to the Reg HQ? But it will happen better if I give an order to Battallion and the HQ, separately (or, indeed, use the 'spare' Reg HQ for something esle entirely) and hence this, possibly, 'gamey' solution. The consequences are realistic, I'm sure - if you give orders to less people, aotbe (all other things being equal) then they will get done quicker. But maybe it's gamey to do this, no? If you don't do it though you really do have that arty problem at the beginning of Hofen, because there's no way you can get into cover before it's light enough for you to get spotted and pinned unless you give orders lower down the chain.

With Elsenborn, though, I'm at a loss - it's a much harder scenario, no? (As Axis)
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Tzar007
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RE: The Damn Artillery

Post by Tzar007 »

ORIGINAL: phoenix

With Elsenborn, though, I'm at a loss - it's a much harder scenario, no? (As Axis)

Yeah, Elsenborn is a large scenario and I find it a mucher tough nut to crack than Höfen. The issue has you mentioned is that there is so much ground to cover for Peiper that you do end up spotted and then the American artillery bangs you on the head like there is no tomorrow. Next thing you know, everybody's stopped dead and not long after it's the retreat or the rout.

Also what did not help is that I suddenly realized the Peiper exit points vanished on day 3 !!! I had not pay attention to this crucial information when starting the scenario that they would get closed at 8h00 on Day 3...

I have to say however that Elsenborn just feels like it's real: how often did I read accounts of Peiper fuming of on Dec. 16 of being stuck behind the Volksgrenadier who just could not get the job done and break through. Well, guess what, I was the one fuming as I kept Kamgruppe Peiper in Lanzerath while I was uselessly waiting for the 12 VGD to clear out the Losheimergraben and Bucholz station roads. Of course, 12 VGD never got the job done on day one so I ended up ordering Peiper to simply punch through the scattered Americans and drive past the opposition. Exactly like what happened in real life...
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RockinHarry
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RE: The Damn Artillery

Post by RockinHarry »

Just did a short attempt at Hofen and figured one should make the most out of the darkness hours and the nil orders delay initially. Move and "attacks" ticked should bring the 3 german batallions rather quick into Hofen and Monschau. But looks really hard to keep going from that point, with exhausted troops, badly lead and inexperienced. So far, I did not play past day one with Monschau and Hofen objectives still not under "control". It´s hard to wrest 10:1 control with heavily understrength german companies from full strength US company, if there´s at least on in the rather oversize perimeter. Maybe 250m ones would help better than the generic 500m ones?[&:]
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Phoenix100
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RE: The Damn Artillery

Post by Phoenix100 »

That's a nice idea, Harry. Smaller objective perimetres, you mean? As it is, if you keep going, you will, of course, do at least as well as I, and get the badly-led, knackered and inexperienced VGDs on all 4 major objectives, probably before darkness on Day 2. But what next? You're right - it's hard to clear all the allies out after that. It was, by the way, quite easy to clear them out before the patch. So what has changed, I wonder? I notice now that on Days 2 and 3 my arty pounds and pounds the Allied units (often quite weak units, by then, I assume) still within the perimetres, in an attempt to evict them, but they just sit there, sometimes in very exposed positions. What they don't do anymore is rout, or, at least, retreat - not as easily, anyway. But my units, caught by arty out in the open, still do retreat and rout very easily, it seems. Could I be imagining this? It seems like quite a big diff to me, between the unpatched and post-patch games.
Lieste
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RE: The Damn Artillery

Post by Lieste »

What you must do is secure the routes in to the Hofen feature to minimise arriving supply and reinforcements - allow the US to feed new armoured units and replenish mortar ammunition and you will have a hard time - deny resupply and keep this battle "small" and it should be taken during the night of day 1 or early on day 2 - with a good artillery prep, you can actually clear the town with the initial assault, though this does require a bit of luck and the expenditure of almost all the artillery ammunition as it arrives (both in CB/interdiction on the artillery and reserves and barrage fire on the defenders of Hofen).


Phoenix100
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RE: The Damn Artillery

Post by Phoenix100 »

Your CB is done on where you know the 62nd and 196th are located (from playing this scenario through a few times), Lieste? Because without that 'black' knowledge they don't appear so readily, I think - no?

But it sounds good. Would love to see the AAR. Can't you put one up? Please?
Lieste
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RE: The Damn Artillery

Post by Lieste »

No, I only fire on spotted targets, but I do watch for any enemy units appearing at long range deep in the rear - these are usually firing artillery or moving reinforcements or support troops (and thus justify a short stonk, just from principle [:D]) I also feed the fusiliers deep to act as a harassing and spotting force, rather than expending them in frontal assaults with the other line units. They have enough AT assets to (just) survive a probe by armour if/when spotted, and better morale and experience. Even if I only spot and neutralise his mortars and the SP Bn, plus disrupt his supply I will have reduced his immediate artillery response by ~60% and greatly curtailed his longer term fires due to supply disruption - at dawn he can hit 3 targets simultaneously, reducing that to only 1 by mid-morning is a huge relief to the assaulting infantry.

My artillery generally only fires in support of an ongoing assault, or to break-up moving and other 'displaced' units, particularly those that I think have nearly completed their forming up for an assault, or are recovering from a retreat. However his high echelon HQ, Supply and Artillery are always in the targeting list if they can be (even tentatively) identified, and the intel is fresh(ish).

If possible I shatter a few front-line units and remove them as threats, rather than suppress everyone but fail to obtain any decisive results. Particularly useful are the Nebelwerfers, firing on directly observed targets near their minimum range... Not much will stand up to all 4 battalions firing in a steady ripple [&o] - these do need using early though, as they can't be used when your troops are in close, except to continue isolating the battle or to interdict/harass his rear area troops.
Kronolog
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RE: The Damn Artillery

Post by Kronolog »

I've got the exact same problem playing Losheim gap. The southern pincer can hardly get across the river and into the first town on the way to Schönberg, as it's stopped in it's tracks by US artillery. At the end of the first day I have but a "battalion" (i.e a couple of fatigued and understrength companies) contesting Bleiaf. When day two comes around I don't really have anything to attack with, and the amis on the Schnee Eifel can just waltz out unopposed (as the northern pincer doesn't fare much better). I'm really at a loss as to what I should do. Rest the whole day and not attack until the night between day one and two? Divert the whole 62 VGD away from St. Vith and assists the push north? [:(]
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RockinHarry
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RE: The Damn Artillery

Post by RockinHarry »

ORIGINAL: phoenix

That's a nice idea, Harry. Smaller objective perimetres, you mean? As it is, if you keep going, you will, of course, do at least as well as I, and get the badly-led, knackered and inexperienced VGDs on all 4 major objectives, probably before darkness on Day 2. But what next? You're right - it's hard to clear all the allies out after that. It was, by the way, quite easy to clear them out before the patch. So what has changed, I wonder? I notice now that on Days 2 and 3 my arty pounds and pounds the Allied units (often quite weak units, by then, I assume) still within the perimetres, in an attempt to evict them, but they just sit there, sometimes in very exposed positions. What they don't do anymore is rout, or, at least, retreat - not as easily, anyway. But my units, caught by arty out in the open, still do retreat and rout very easily, it seems. Could I be imagining this? It seems like quite a big diff to me, between the unpatched and post-patch games.

Yep, with regard to objective perimeters I´d use smaller ones in circumstances. The standard 500m ones are probably optimal for AI play as they cover roughly a battalion size zone and batallions appear to be the standard tactical unit for AI maneuvres. Depending on objectives, I´d occasionally use small ones. I.E bridge sites. Tactically it´s just the first step to capture/secure a bridge, but usually you also have to control those areas that you control the bridge from, ...hills ect. As long as you can put observed fire on a bridge, it´s anything but "secured". So I´d use a small "secure bridge" objective on the bridge itself and then check area LOS from the bridge and put further obcetive locs on those map spots that yield control on the bridge. Alternatively one can also use a very large objective loc on the bridge that covers enough of the bridge controlling terrain. Depends all on map and visibility. The game (or scenario maker) manual suggests to use no more than 12 objective locs, so it obviously requires heavy play testing to assure the AI can deal with any amount of objective locs in a reasonable manner.

In Hofen I too found that germans can make the best use of their plentiful artillery (I consider them superior to US artillery here), once the Volksgrenadiers got into Hofen and Monschau and rest for half a day. So if the Volksgrenadiers got rested enough, the US should be softened enough, that at least one or to gaps to the west could be opened for further progress. Not yet fully tested. The best I achieved was a draw so far.
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