A Bombardment Test and Results

SPWaW is a tactical squad-level World War II game on single platoon or up to an entire battalion through Europe and the Pacific (1939 to 1945).

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victorhauser
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A Bombardment Test and Results

Post by victorhauser »

March 15th, 1944:
Starting at 8:30 am, waves and waves of Allied bombers begin carpet bombing Cassino. Seven hundred and seventy-five aircraft--575 heavy and medium bombers and 200 fighter-bombers and fighters-- participate in this aerial operation.
The area of Rocca Janula and Cassino are plastered by over 1,250 tons of high explosives. The abbey itself is not bombed.
The aerial assault ends at 12:30 pm, at which time the artillery of three different Corps--New Zealand, American, and French--join with the British to pound their targets into rubble. By 3:30 pm, 746 guns have fired over 200,000 shells on the town and hill.
The New Zealanders and the Indians, supported by armour and artillery, advance against Cassino and Rocca Janula, where they are surprised to meet ferocious German resistance.

By nightfall, the New Zealand 6th Infantry Brigade, advancing from the north with the 25th Battalion leading, penetrates only 20 yards into the town of Cassino. The New Zealanders do manage to capture Rocca Janula, but the 26th Battalion's attempt to cross the Via Casilina and advance southward has been stopped by Major Neuhoff's 2nd Parachute Battalion.
(Source: Bohmler, Rudolf "Monte Cassino: A German View" Cassell and Co. Ltd, 1964.)

Based on this information, I conducted a test to determine the effectiveness of SPWaW bombing. After checking a variety of websites regarding the Battle of Monte Cassino, I had the following data to work with:
1. The town of Cassino is about 1km northeast of the Monastery that sits on Monte Cassino.
2. The town of Cassino is roughly rectangular in shape and approximately 1/2 mile by 1/6 mile which equals about 18 SPWaW hexes by 6 SPWaW hexes in size.
3. Rocca Janula is a hill at the northwest corner of the town of Cassino.
4. Of the 575 bombers that attacked the town of Cassino that morning, around 200 of them were heavies and the other 375 were mediums.
5. Defending the town of Cassino was the 3rd Regiment of the 1st Fallschirmjager Division.
6. The 3-hour artillery bombardment from 746 guns and firing 200,000+ rounds works out to about 270 rounds per gun at a rate of about 1 round every 45 seconds.
7. Following the 6 hours of bombardment approximately 50% of the defending Germans had been rendered ineffective (not necessarily killed though).

So I set up a test scenario to see how SPWaW 6.1 would simulate this bombardment. I created a small 30x30 scenario map and placed a rectangle of stone buildings 18 hexes high (north to south) by 6 hexes wide (east to west) centered in the map. I made every hex within this rectangle a stone building to maximize defensive effects.

Using the scenario editor, I purchased 192 heavy bombers (16 formations of 2 units of 6 heavy bombers each), 384 medium bombers (32 formations of 2 units of 6 medium bombers each), 80 P-47C fighter-bombers (40 formations of 2 P-47s each) and 10 battalions of 155mm howitzers (10 formations with 3 batteries each of 4 guns for a total of 120 guns, I was running out of formations). The troop quality for the Americans was set at 70. I set the troop quality for the Germans at 90 to give them elite paratroops and to maximize their defensive survival.

I deployed 12 companys of German Paratroops, 1 company of organic engineers, 1 company of StuG IVs (usually a Fallschimjager regiment had a company of towed antitank, but I wanted to see the effects of this bombardment on some AFVs, too), and 1 platoon of 120mm mortars. Total effectives = 2030 men, 52 pieces of artillery (81mm and 120mm mortars), and 10 AFVs. I entrenched all German units and all were in a stone building at the end of the deployment to maximize defensive benefits.

Next, I plotted the American bombardment. I set the air entry-exit to “east-to-west” so the bombs would fall across the width (rather than along the length) of the town, thus minimizing bombing accuracy. I decided that only 25% of the heavy bombers would actually be able to put their bombs into the target area, so I only used 48 heavy bombers (8 units of 6 heavies each) and didn’t even plot the remaining 144 heavy bombers. I decided that around 30% of the mediums would be useful, so I used 120 medium bombers (20 units of 6 mediums each) and didn’t plot the remaining 264 medium bombers. I decided that even though the P-47Cs would be much more accurate than the bombers that the smoke and dust would obscure much of the target zone, so I only plotted 26 of the 80 P-47Cs I had (and even though 200 were used in the historical attack). I did plot all 10 battalions of 155mm artillery since 120 guns represented only 15% of those used historically (746 guns). I chose 155mm howitzers since they are midway between 105mm and 203mm and since I only had 120 guns instead of 746.

I distributed the bombardment plots as evenly as possible along the centerline of the north-south axis of the town to get as even a bombardment spread as possible.

I set all objective flags under American control so the game would end immediately thereby allowing me to see the bombing results more quickly (it took 5+ minutes to conduct each test even with fast artillery ON).

I conducted 10 test bombardments using the default settings in the Player Preferences (100% artillery effectiveness vs. both hard and soft targets, 100% infantry toughness, 100% tank toughness).

THE RESULTS of the FIRST TEST:
On average, these test bombardments using default settings eliminated 1975.7 out of 2030 men (97.3% casualties), 50.2 out of 52 artillery units (96.5% casualties), and 3.6 out of 10 AFVs (36% casualties). Since this bombardment only lasted 1 turn, the 10 battalions of artillery were not very effective (each gun fired only 3 rounds in the one turn of bombardment they had for a total of 360 rounds fired, nowhere close to the 200,000+ fired historically). In fact, I think that you could remove the 10 battalions of artillery completely and these results would not change much. And that tells me that the big bombs are doing all the damage. The 155mm artillery is insignificant by comparison.

I was shocked and very unhappy with these results since they were so much more devastating than the historical results (and combined with the fact that it happened in 1 turn instead of 6 hours). Historical results should have been about 1000 men, 26 artillery units, and ?? AFVs (I don’t have information about AFV losses in this battle). But these historical results should be after 6 hours (including 3 hours of artillery bombardment) and not after a single turn. Also, note that in the historical battle, the German resistance (after the bombing) in the town of Cassino was so ferocious that the attackers were able to penetrate only 20 yards into the town itself before night fell (see the quote at the top of this post). Clearly there were more than 3% effectives remaining to resist the Allied ground assault.

So I conducted another 10 test bombardments using different settings in the Player Preferences. I set artillery to 30% effectiveness against soft targets, and set German infantry toughness to 250%. I left the artillery vs AFV alone (100% artillery effectiveness and 100% AFV toughness) because I wanted a control to compare against. Given a decrease in artillery effectiveness by a factor of 3.3 and an increase in infantry toughness by a factor of 2.5, I thought that these new test bombardments would be much much less effective. I was wrong.

THE RESULTS of the SECOND TEST:
On average, these test bombardments using the weakest bombardment settings that SPWaW has to offer eliminated 1542.3 out of 2030 men (76.0% casualties), 31.5 out of 52 artillery units (60.6% casualties), and 2.0 out of 10 AFVs (20% casualties). Of interest was the drop in AFV losses even though those settings were not changed. It turns out that since more soft targets were alive following the attacks by the heavies and mediums, then the P-47Cs spent more time eliminating those survivors instead of attacking the AFVs, thus the drop in AFV losses.

MY CONCLUSIONS:
1. There is so much overkill built into the destructiveness of big ordnance, that even using the weakest bombardment settings that SPWaW offers does not seriously degrade that ordnance’s effectiveness.
2. Intervening or blocking terrain does little or nothing to impede or degrade the blast effects or the blast radius of big ordnance.
3. Even being entrenched in the best cover available and using elite troops offers no significant improved chances for survival against big ordnance.

WHAT TO DO?
I don’t know right now. I need some time to think about this.

--Victor
VAH
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Post by Jack »

Sounds like you had a lot of time on your hands but here is what I think.
Yes it is one turn, in wich you conducted your experiment, and you mention the actual bombardment was six hours.
Infantry when under bombardment will seek cover anywhere. A large proportion of the buildings they where hiding in were stone with a basement or cellar I think. So even after the building collasps they are still safe in the cellar.
In the actual bombardment where all the bombs dropped on target 100%? I doubt it.
Another thing you must realize that it is a turned based game and an old chicken can't lay the same golden egg has that the magical Goose can.
It dose seem like a good project though. You have all the historical data on the terrain, make us a 100x240 map and I will be glad to use it. It is nice to see you so interested in the game to go to all that trouble.
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Paul Vebber
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Post by Paul Vebber »

THe game is not designed to portray 196 plane carpet bombing raids, just like it is not designed to portray multi-1000 gun bombardments.

Remember that the vast majority of "casualties" in the game are "combat ineffectives". IF 196 planes carpet bombed that area in a few minutes, then to say that there would be only 3% effective is probably correct. 6 hours later (and two scenarios later...the vast majority of those troops would be combat ready again.

You are confusing an operational level application of fires with tactical level results.

[ August 14, 2001: Message edited by: Paul Vebber ]</p>
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Post by victorhauser »

Jack:
I'm not sure I understand what you are saying.

Are you saying that there is a better form of cover in SPWaW that I could've put the Germans in?

Are you saying that I should make the map much larger than the historical combat area even if that would no longer make the test fit an historical format?

Are you saying that even though I reduced the combat effectiveness by 70% or more of the bombing forces (I only used 48 out of 192 available heavy bombers (cut by 75%), 120 out of 384 medium bombers (cut by 70%), 26 out of 200 fighter-bombers (cut by 87%), and 120 out of 746 guns (cut by 85%)) that I should reduce it even further?

Please elaborate on what you are trying to tell me.
VAH
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Post by john g »

Originally posted by victorhauser:
Jack:
I'm not sure I understand what you are saying.

Are you saying that there is a better form of cover in SPWaW that I could've put the Germans in?

Are you saying that I should make the map much larger than the historical combat area even if that would no longer make the test fit an historical format?

Are you saying that even though I reduced the combat effectiveness by 70% or more of the bombing forces (I only used 48 out of 192 available heavy bombers (cut by 75%), 120 out of 384 medium bombers (cut by 70%), 26 out of 200 fighter-bombers (cut by 87%), and 120 out of 746 guns (cut by 85%)) that I should reduce it even further?

Please elaborate on what you are trying to tell me.

There is an artillery tactic from WWI called time on target, where all shells are timed to impact a target zone simultaneously, magnifying their effect. There is a differance between firing 1000 shells all at once and firing 1000 shells one per hour for 1000 hours.

Rerun your test with just one bomber section targetted per turn (you will find a lot start missing the town entirely due to smoke from previous impacts).

What was the underlying terrain below the houses? Was it rough or mixed? The two terrains should be additive, though I have never tested to see. Were the German forces set up entrenched in their houses? They should have been.

By spreading out the attack the defenders have time to reduce suppression between each attack, with all those attacks in one pregame bombardement, the Germans have no chance to recover between each attack and are rendered ineffective.
thanks, John.
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Post by victorhauser »

I agree.

I will reset the test. 36 turns of air bombardment and then 36 more turns of artillery bombardment (assuming 5 minutes per turn) will produce a 72-turn (6-hour) bombardment scenario.

I will make the entire city area rough terrain over which I will place all the stone buildings and I will once again (as I did in the first tests) entrench all German units prior to the bombardment. So all German units will be entrenched in a stone building on rough terrain at start.

I will even go further. During the 36-turn air bombardment I will fire smoke rounds using the artillery to totally obscure the town making spotting from the air that much more difficult.

I will go even further. Rather than using entire battalions of guns, I will use the scenario editor to fire each gun individually (creative use of the unit/formation attachment feature will allow me to do this, thus creating very large formations of individual guns yet still remaining within the 100-formation limit), thus even further dispersing the bombardment effect.

Of course, all of this will mean that this new version of the bombardment test will take several days to perform, so I might not have any results until this weekend or early next week.

HOWEVER.
Regardless of the number of casualties produced by this new test, my observations (and Conclusion #2 in my post at the top that started this thread) indicate that blocking and/or intervening terrain has no effect on the blast radius or blast effect of big ordnance. I still believe that this will be true no matter how many times or how many different variations to this test that I perform. And if this is true (as I believe it is), then, in the words of the Apollo 13 astronauts, "Houston, we have a problem".

But we shall see...

ADDENDUM.
I specifically chose this historical event (the bombardment of the 3rd Fallschirmjager Regiment in the town of Cassino on 15 March 1944), because:
1. The target area was small enough to easily fit on an SPWaW game map.
2. I had good data to work with not only in terms of the attackers, but also from the defenders' perspective.
3. The entire Battle of Monte Cassino (from January-May 1944) itself has interesting SPWaW possibilities (for both scenarios and campaigns).

So, my interest here is not entirely clinical. Any recreation(s) of the Battle of Monte Cassino is going to have to accurately portray the tremendous and repeated bombardments which the defenders (and on occasion the attackers) suffered during the course of those 5 months.
VAH
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Post by Charles2222 »

victorhauser: Perhaps another problem other than perhaps too effective blast radius, you are also seeing that the stone buildings aren't modeled sturdily enough. How many times have we seen one or two 100mm rounds knock out the entire building? I'm not saying it couldn't happen, but the game may not have such a thing as partial building damage, or if so it's only reflected in the damage to the building itself, so that losses aren't encountered until the whole thing blows. Perhaps using caves would work in rough terrain to more faithfully recreate surviving the blasts?

Maybe it's best left for CL/CA, but a way around this problem, if it is a problem, is to have "infantry" repair? What do I mean? Well. give a squad enough time, and some of those ineffectives come back into fighting again, so that both a high loss rate occurs, coupled with about 40-60% of them coming back if enough time allows, such as what Paul was talking about, to achieve the resistance the Germans showed.
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Arralen
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Post by Arralen »

Jack, Paul, you're simply wrong IMHO.

Why?

You say that the game does not portray those operational level bombardments - but does so correctly for tactical level.
How should it do so?
You should be able to sum up all single shots from tactical level, and it should give the correct operational result.
But it -obviously- doesn't.

VAH used only a small fraction of the historical numbers, so he didn't really simulate a 6-hours bombardment, but maybe only 10..15 minutes, what is within the 'timescale' of the game (and as it was pre- turn 1 bombardment, it isn't restricted to the turn-length of 'around 3 minutes', isn't it?).

Result was (nearly) total annihilation ..

Cause for this is the way-to-high damage to adjecent hexes .. I have seen 100kg-bombs causing at least 0,5 casualties per occupied hex2 hexes away with each drop, no matter if the terrain was heavily wooded, rough or whatever .. and no sign of troops going into cover or similar.

If dumb iron bombs with WW2 explosives where so effective, nobody would question that one can win a war with air force alone ...who needs grunts if they die faster than flies ?

IMHO all guns over 90mm are overdone, and the bombs are even worse.
There have been complaints that the small arty (75mm) is mostly worthless, especially when compaired to the bigger guns, right?
But the answer is not to boost up those guns, but to turn down the rest ...

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Post by ubertechie »

Another interesting point is that - even if the building is levelled - given enough time effective defences can be reconstructed from the rubble - this could account for the fact the first assualt was so ineffective.
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Post by Jack »

I was simply saying with all the historical data you have a big map would be nice keeping the built up area the same of course.
I use ASL to base all my tactical level wargaming on, and yes I don't think you could have found better cover for them.
Please do not take any offence because none was intended. It is nice to see somebody care enough about a game and all the extra effort it put into.
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Post by Paul Vebber »

It is a common mistake to think that combat results can be aggregated to higher levels using a single model. War is non-linear and highly scale dependant, so to say that a model that depicts teh effects of 1 bomb is appropriate for 1000 bombs is unfortunatley common in the Modeling and Sim community, but shown to be wrong.

In fact I am speaking on this topic (among other things) in my professional capacity at the SMI Mine Warfare symposium in London in October.

What is the effect of a single bomb falling? IF you happen to be in the area of effect (easily a 100yard radius) it is devestating. But is 2 bombs twice as devestating, is N things N times more? Obviously there is a "deadening" to the shock effect after a N rises. How rapidly is a such of much debate, but is generally not considered high. 1000 bombs does not produce 1000 times the "casualties" of 1. Yet teh simple overflight of a recently bombed unit can cause it abandon its postion, drive off a road and take cover, or simple cower for as long as teh mere POTENTIAL to be bombed exists. Obviously there is a tactical effect here that applies to small groups of planes or small artillery bombarments (the whistle of shells passing overhead can have similar effects).

So if the results are not linear, and not even diectly causal (ie the threat of an effect can be as disruptive as the effect) then one cannot expect a model that produces appropriate affects for small N, is appropriate for large N.

Modeling the physical application of casulties (ie accounting for buildings and things that get in the way) is far beyond SP ability to portray and the "design philosphy" is that very large ordnace prodcues far more psycholgical casulties that physical ones.

The air and artillery protrayed in the game are small numbers of aircraft or artillery attempting to attack specifc enemy units. These sorts of attacks had a great disruptive effect on enemy action. It included physical wounding (some which produce casualties in the game, some of which don't, some wounded men fought on and some didn't) it includes psychological wounding (some men not wounded stopped fighting and some didn't) - both of these are termed "casualties" in the game - men who for the hour or two duration of the battle make no effective contribution.

Now there is also short term "shock" that is of minutes duration - that is suppression in the game, and it can typically be fully recovered from inat most a handful of terms if leadership is effective.

Carpet bombing and massive bombarment was not done agaisnt specific enemy units, but against huge regions, these are operational application of fire that are not followed up for hours with ground combat. (Initial contact may be made in 10s of minutes, but as a whole the bombed area takes considerable time to move into, such bombing making the ground in many cases impassible to vehicels. These effects are not considered in the game becasue the game deals with tactical application of large ordnance only.

THis effect of teh problems of aggregation are demonstrated very effectively in teh Operatioanl art of war game. PLay an encounter between two divisions represented as a scenario with company level units at small hex size. Play the scenario 10 times and record the results and casualties. Then play the same forces, aggregated as a single unit in a single battle between adjacent units at a large hex size. The results will bear no realtion to each other.

Aha you say - the model in the OPerational Art of War is hopelessly flawed! Right? Since the combat between the two identical forces scaled at teh different levels produces widely differeing results! Well yes and no...the same combat model that produces appropriate combat results at teh company on company level, may or may not be appropriate for division on division combat.

But one can equally argue that taking a division on divsion encounter and portraying it as a GAME between company level entities is not appropriate when viewed in the CONTEXT of a Front level operation. In other words a real commander will have a contextual framework beyond "winning the game" that the two counter representation may actually represent more appropriately than the same situation taken OUT OF CONTEXT and framed as a game situation on its own divorced from the overal strategic pitcure.

So to make a long story short...stating a model designed to portray the long and short term shock and casualty effects of small numbers of large ordnace targeted at specific units, and declare it "wrong" becasue it does not accurately depict something it was not desigend to model is hardly a valid criticism.

Models have limits of applicability and I would ask whether ANY tactical game (take ASL for example, Give 100 modules of 150mm OBA and see what remains...) can be scaled to portray teh effects of a carpet bombing attack. PArticularly giventhe histroical results. For each case where a regimental ro even divisional force was completely wrecked, one can find raids that were nearly ineffectual, because of the luck of where the units happend to be at the time.
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Post by victorhauser »

Arralen:

You raise an issue that I hadn't considered. And you have opened a can of worms.

Players are allowed to purchase medium and heavy bombers when playing a battle (such as hotseat or PBEM). And those players WILL use them in mass and in a "time-on-target" way to achieve maximum (and devastating) destructive effect on the target.

And they will NOT wait several hours to follow up such an attack but will do so as soon as they can bring forces into the area (i.e., almost immediately).

Perhaps medium and heavy bombers should be given the "1949" OOB designations and made available for scenario-design purposes only, thus removing them from the tactical control of players in hotseat and PBEM games.

Indeed, perhaps it is better to remove them from the game altogether since they were only used historically (the heavies at least) in a mass-attack carpet-bombing manner where hundreds of aircraft were involved.

The more I think about Arralen's comments, the more I am inclined to believe that all weapons that were used primarily at the operational level (big guns, big bombers, etc.) should be removed from a tactical-level game like SPWaW; especially if modeling those operational-level results are playing havoc with the tactical-level forces. Instead, I think that the EFFECTS of such bombardments can be modeled at the scenario-design level without having to include the causing agents of those effects.

After even more thought, I believe that no human player will ever allow himself to be subjected to such operational effects. By this I mean that no player will play a game of SPWaW (he will resign, or refuse to play in the first place) where he will suffer operational bombardments as currently modeled in SPWaW. Here again, the solution is to remove such operational-level forces from the game, especially since nobody will allow them to be used in a game anyway.

As Arralen has pointed out, the current operational-level bombardment forces are the SPWaW equivalents of tactical nukes. Removing them will not only keep the game on a purely tactical level, but will also free up more OOB slots for more tactical units.
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Post by Paul Vebber »

I completely agree that high level "operational" type units have no place in game <img src="wink.gif" border="0"> Unfortunately others like to have rail guns an dbombers and things for *limited* use so its been my philosophy that its easier to not use things things and to not have them at all.

A compromise, but one that I think works out in most cases - "abstract" cvehicles for such effects (like level bombers) are included, butmust be used with care.

[ August 15, 2001: Message edited by: Paul Vebber ]</p>
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Post by Grimm »

I would have to agree with victorhauser about the bombers. They still don't seem to fit into the scope of the game well. It seems to me that the heavies were used almost exclusively during the war to hit strategic targets. They generally weren't used to hit a target that has friendlies nearby ready to assault. I think the real reason they weren't used tactically is because of lack of accuracy. Remember, the bombers must first FIND the target before they can bomb it. During WW2, American bombers frequently had problems finding the targets due to weather, bad intel, bad navagation, etc. And most cases, their targets were huge - industrial parks, railways, etc., and not individual tanks or units. Maybe the real problem is that they are still significantly more accurate in the game than they really were?
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Post by Grumble »

The issue with keeping or not keeping the "heavies" has little to do with history, and more to do with perception, as Paul notes above.
In my day job, I also see the impact of people's perceptions especially those of air/ground. Out here at Nellis we do a Firepower Demonstration, and invite locals, VIPs etc out to see it. Almost invariably, those who've only seen 1000lbrs impacting in the movies are actually disappointed by the real thing (other than feeling the shockwaves). The REALITY is nothing like folks' perceptions of that what reality ought to be.
So with wargames. Guarantee if the Matrix bro's DID the "historical" thing and pulled out all heavies, (which I agree with BTW) there would be much wailing and gnashing of teeth-I suggest if the game was being sold, sales would drop off. Look at the AAA that came up over the abstraction idea-which is a simulation of "historical" employment of these weapon systems. "I can't 'do' xxxx without carpet bombing". Well, yes you can, if accept the game is a SIMULATION and not a modelling of warfare, one can simulate the effects of such a bombardment and start the scenario some minutes/hours after it's ended-when the ground assaults usually began. Again as Paul noted above. The difference between effects-based simulations, and detail-based simulations.
SL is board-game example of the former (though ASL rapidly moved into the latter, thanks to a vocal minority who wanted more "detail" not necessarily more accuracy); "Tobruk" a archetypical example of the latter.
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Post by Tombstone »

Why take them out? It's a cool thing for the occasional scenario...

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Post by Jack »

Gumble,
Have you ever played ASL? Have you ever played the old SL and compared the two? ASL was developed for a reason. It is the most detailed and realistic WWII tactical level game out. The night rules are phenomenal for example. If you could only incorporate the night the same way in SPW@W.
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Post by Grumble »

Yes, I've played ASL since its inception up until AH went bust about 6 years ago, played in tourneys, discussed elements of its design with Don Greenwood and crew, and BTW have done it "for real". So I think I can "knock it".
I submit, it's more DETAILED, but not necessarily a better model of infantry combat than SL.
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Post by gdpsnake »

I can argue for removing such units from the OOB or conversly making them SO expensive to buy that they could only be used in scenario design.
Why? Because I find the computer AI buys them A LOT! I remember reaching a point in a campaign where I went against the Americans. More and more, the AI chose A/C over units. At one point I faced attacks from 26 B-17's, 36 B-25's, 12 P-40's and 6 P-51's. I only faced about 20 ground units so the AI went crazy and bought A/C. Many other times I faced 50-60% as many A/C with more ground units.
Naturally, I was getting tired of being destroyed by only airpower so I spent all my points on AAA. I destroyed 75-80% of the A/C before bombs away.
This is not the kind of tactical game I would hope for. If I wanted to just play A/C target and AAA battles then I'd hunt the scenario files or create one.
So YES, these units should be 'adjusted' so ONLY one or two can be chosen by the AI or a player. Perhaps reduce the chance of availability. A designer can always use whatever he wants but a player/AI should have a hard time finding these resources.
Then the Monte Cassino battles will only occur as a result of a scenario design (And IMHO, only played by people who like to get blown up a lot)
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Post by Paul Vebber »

Set the available AC to the AI to 0 and it won't buy any - or what ever limit you think it should have...
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