My blog about my wargaming activities. I collect a lot of 15mm miniatures for the American War of Independence and so collect a lot of rules for this period. I started miniatures with Napoleonics, so I have a number of armies in 6mm and 15mm figures for skirmishing. I have15mm WW II figures that I use for Flames of War, Memoir '44, and someday, Poor Bloody Infantry. Finally there is my on-again, off-again relationship with paper soldiers that I sometimes write about.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Question on Tactical Exercises Post

To my Tactical Exercises and Micro-Games post Pat G. asks:
I am not an FoW player so please excuse me if I am ignorant of specific game mechanics.

In exercise 1, I am curious about why you wouldn't use the mortars to smoke out the German trench line before pushing the SMGs and FTs up. This would reduce their exposure to return fire and allow defeat in detail of individual German bases.

Another option would have been to pin the Germans using static fire from the rifles and HMGs, hammer the trench line with HE and flank with the SMGs using cover if possible or if not, detailing a couple of mortars to make concealment on one flank with smoke.

For scenario two, I would again want to use a lot of smoke to isolate the APCs and allow the FTs to get up close and personal.

Extended HE fire from the mortars is also an option but would depend on how FoW handles open topped APCs - in some rules they become coffins when hit with plunging fire.

In any event - an interesting read and a good practice to adopt - regardless of rules set.
First off, thanks for asking Pat. Although a blog is not a very good forum for interaction, I am always happy to receive feedback.

So, let's start with the first question. Why did the Soviets not smoke the Germans prior to the assault in order to limit return fire? My first response is that this would be a great tactical exercise for the attacker, so they can compare and contrast the results between using smoke and not using smoke. In this specific exercise, the Soviet mortars in Flames of War do not have enough smoke shells in order to make what they call a smoke bombardment. So, they do have that option.

Nonetheless, let's discuss that option, as it is an interesting one. First, what are the game effects of a smoke bombardment in Flames of War? They are:
  1. Anyone fired upon where the line of fire passes through the smoke is considered concealed (16% harder to be hit).
  2. The smoke is thick enough that if the line of fire passes through the smoke, targets beyond 6" from the firer are hidden, and thus cannot be fired upon.
Given those two game effects, a smoke bombardment lowers the number of hits by 16%, which is significant, but due to the German deployment (see last entry's Figure 2) where the second line is within 4" of the first line's front edge, the smoke would not significantly block the fire.

The key to the Soviet attack is to ensure you pin the Germans on the turn of assault. This reduces the Germans' fire from 2D6 per team to 1D6 per teams, so up to 7D6. As the Germans are only hit on a '6' and you need five hits, that means you have to toss 30 dice on average. That means 10 SMG stands, which the Soviets don't have. Alternatively, one single HE hit by the mortar or by a Flamethrower will pin the platoon.

Sometimes Flames of War is a game of nuances. If the Flamethrower is within 10", it gets 4D6 to try and pin the Germans (and also kill the target team, by the way). If it is outside of 10", the mortar has to do the dirty work. Either way, if the Soviets don't achieve the pin, the hard choice is whether the assault goes in anyway or not. That will probably depend upon whether your company got a bloodied nose or beaten up on its ways in.

So, in direct answer to question 1: Soviets don't have smoke and even if they did, smoke does not have as powerful an effect, therefore you cannot really defeat the German platoon in detail using that method.

Regarding option 2, this comes down to understanding the math behind the game system you are playing, which only reinforces my point of why you want to play out these tactical exercises. What you suggest seems very reasonable; the question is whether the math of the game system supports it. As it stands the Soviets need a '6' to hit the Germans because they are concealed, gone to ground (keeping their heads down until the last minute, as they did not shoot), and in foxholes. The mechanics for Flames of War is similar to Warhammer 40K in that the firer rolls to hit and for each hit the target gets to roll for a save. Being in foxholes allows the target an additional save.

So, each firer has a 16% chance to hit, a 33% chance to overcome the target's save, and a 16% chance to overcome the foxhole save, giving each firer just about a 1% chance to remove the target stand. The return fire from the Germans to the Soviets running around in the open has a 16% chance of removing a stand. Clearly, firepower is not the way to go.

In Flames of War assault is the great equalizer. Now assault does not necessarily mean crossing bayonets any more than it means that in the horse and musket era. What it does mean is a firefight at very close range where grenades and such come into play. Why is it the great equalizer? Because it:
  1. Removes the infantry save from the equation.
  2. The chance to hit is based on the attacker's skill, not the defender's.
Put very simply, assaults kill in Flames of War and it is mastering that which will increase your chance of winning.

For the second scenario the mortars did fire HE and succeeded in getting the half-track crew to bail out twice. (It actually had a chance to destroy the half-track, but the mortar's rolling was not good enough for that to happen.) But that is actually pretty lucky, especially given that the half-tracks were moving, so it is harder to zero-in.

Thanks for the comments Pat. I am glad you found it an interesting enough read to respond, even though you don't play Flames of War.

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Huachuca City, Arizona, United States
I am 58 yrs old now. I bought a house in Huachuca City, AZ working for a software company for the last three years. To while away the hours I like to wargame -- with wooden, lead, and sometimes paper miniatures -- usually solo. Although I am a 'rules junkie', I almost always use rules of my own (I like to build upon others' ideas, but it seems like there is always something "missing" or "wrong").