Katz: Designer’s Response to the Desperation Morale Review of Forgotten War

Kenneth Katz is a member of the designer team for MMP’s groundbreaking Korean module – Forgotten War.  This is Ken’s response to Mark Pitcavage’s extensive critique of MMP’s Korean module – Forgotten War.  I find it so interesting by its own right that I asked Ken’s for his permission for HKWG to carry it.  While you can certainly read Mark’s critique first, I am sure you will get a lot out of this even if you read it as a “standalone”.  I certainly did.  These two learned gentlemen certainly make our ASL lives richer with their exchange.

ThumbnailOn behalf of the Forgotten War design team, I want to respond to Mark Pitcavage’s recent review of that module on his highly regarded ASL website Desperation Morale. Obviously, we have a protective attitude towards Forgotten War. Its development dominated much of our free time over the years (for some over 18 years!) and Mark’s critical review is less than pleasing to us as a team. However much we disagree with elements of the review, we want to commend Mark for his thorough critique.

The Forgotten War core design team consisted of Mike Reed, Ken Katz, Paul Works, Andy Hershey, and Pete Dahlin. Each brought a very strong skill set to the team and our differing styles and capabilities meshed well. The Forgotten War extended team included approximately thirty additional participants from across the globe; all such participants were included in the Korean War ASL Yahoo Group and had access to all development material, to include the rules. Any intimation (or direct statement) that development was done in isolation is false.

Mark’s discussion of the history of the product is generally correct up to a point but does not accurately describe the relationship between Forgotten War and the Kinetic Energy ASL module which was never published. It is true that one of the co-designers, Mike Reed, worked with Mark Neukom on the Kinetic Energy design and we are certain that earlier work influenced Mike’s contributions to Forgotten War. Personally, my only connection with the Kinetic Energy design was a 5-minute glance at it. The major design elements of Forgotten War, including Steep Hills and the CPVA rules that we created, did not come from Kinetic Energy. This is true for all the other core Forgotten War team members as well. Furthermore, the Kinetic Energy style did not mesh well with MMP’s vision for ASL, so a new design was necessary since a primary of objective of this project was to design a product that would become “official.” MMP put the product under contract in 2011. It then waited in MMP’s development queue for several years, with intensive work resuming around 2015 and publication in late 2017.

Steep Hills and Semi-Geomorphic Mapboards 80-83:

Korean terrain had a tremendous influence on the conduct of the Korean War. Through research, it became apparent that the existing variety of ASL terrain types did not represent the tactical effects of much militarily significant Korean terrain. The result was the Steep Hills rules (W1.3), which could be described in a nutshell as doing to Hills what the Dense Jungle terrain does to Woods. The essential requirements of Steep Hills were to deny off-road movement for vehicles, burden infantry movement particularly by heavily laden troops, and provide some protection because the terrain is broken. Note that such terrain is not unique to Korea. Terrain with such characteristics can be found in places as diverse as Afghanistan, Italy and Israel. The use of Steep Hills terrain puts a premium on infantry and greatly restricts the use of heavier support weapons and vehicles, which is accurate for many Korean War battles. The mapboards not only represent the hills and valleys which were the sites of many Korea War valleys, but the topography of those mapboards combined with the Steep Hills rules mean that there are ample opportunities for an attacker to infiltrate and withdraw while being protected from enemy fire. Using Forgotten War boards and Steep Hills terrain, a defender cannot just sit on peaks with a MG and sweep the hill clean of attackers, and that was very much the intent. Taken as a whole, the rules and mapboards provide the “design for effect” that was intended and reflected the team’s research.

Chinese People’s Volunteer Army (CPVA):

Probably Mark’s most serious objection to the Forgotten War design is the CPVA. Before addressing the finer points of the CPVA rules (W7), we should preface our responses with several “big picture” points. The CPVA was a major combatant that fought in distinctive ways that deserves distinctive nationality characteristics. All nationality characteristics are exaggerated stereotypes, but that does not mean that they don’t have a significant element of truth. The best way to appreciate the CPVA in Forgotten War is not to focus on each rule but to see how the totality of the CPVA rules, the scenario orders of battle, and the scenario victory conditions combine to incentivize the CPVA player to fight the CPVA in accordance with its distinctive doctrine and tactics. The portrayal of the CPVA in Forgotten War was based on extensive research that utilized a wide range of sources. These included numerous historical books/narratives by Western (U.S., British, Canadian, French, Belgian, etc.) authors using multiple original sources; U.S. Army historical documents, to include multiple, previously-classified documents; U.S. Army operations research books/documents that included analyses of operations and interviews with CPVA personnel; South Korean historical documentation; and multiple books by Chinese authors. The CPVA’s representation was available to the entire, extended Forgotten War team. Scenarios and Chapter H content were informed by a Chinese-speaking team member that had access to additional Chinese-language source material.

The intent of the portrayal of the CPVA in Forgotten War was to represent several characteristics of that force: its mass, its willingness to tolerate very high casualties, the primitive nature of its communications and logistics, and its tactical doctrine which emphasise closing with the enemy. The latter both leveraged the strengths of the force and reduced the ability of its enemy to use its superior artillery and airpower. In the interests of brevity, we won’t take a deep dive into every rule, but we believe that to those who understand the CPVA and the CPVA rules in Forgotten War, the logic behind the rules makes sense. Needless to say, far from denigrating the CPVA, the Forgotten War rules and scenarios in combination show the CPVA to be a formidable foe.

CPVA Step Reduction:

The following represent the primary reasoning elements we used to select Step Reduction (W7.21) to represent the CPVA. Taken individually they are evidential and indicatory. Taken as a whole, and leveraging existing ASL rules constructs, Step Reduction was the answer.

  1. Prisoner ratio. Using estimated casualty numbers, we have the following historical percent-of-casualties data (i.e., these percentages show the percent of total casualties that prisoners represented): Allies WW2 (Pacific Theater) 24%; Japanese WW2 2.2%; CPVA KW 2.8%. Although more than moderately suggestive, these estimates do not address a number of related considerations (such as the huge number of Chinese troops freezing to death vice being combat casualties).
  2. Numerous personal narratives from KW participants about CPVA troops weathering huge amounts of firepower and still coming. Sort of like being berserk in ASL, except they were not berserk and could change what they were doing when commanded to do so (i.e., they did not just always charge right toward the nearest enemy).
  3. Accounts of many CPVA soldiers, who would begin a charge/human wave (HW) unarmed, picking up the weapons of their dead/wounded comrades and continuing forward. Some similar accounts appear in descriptions of Russian HWs (in Stalingrad, for example); in the CPVA case, however, the descriptions do not describe large numbers of Chinese troops breaking. Going to ground and melting away, yes. Large groups of them breaking and running away (like what can result in a standard ASL HW), no.
  4. The political indoctrination and presence of POs in even the smallest units had a major impact on how the CPVA troops behaved. They were more motivated by such indoctrination than typical Russian troops and were motivated as such to continue on in the face of significant casualties.
  5. Step Reduction is an existing ASL rule that will be familiar to most intermediate- and advanced-level ASL players.

Initial Intervention:

CPVA Initial Intervention squads represent troops armed with weapons obtained from the Nationalists (GMD) and the Imperial Japanese Army. The Soviet-Armed squads represent troops armed with Soviet weapons, primarily “burp guns,” which is what Americans called the Soviet-supplied PPSh submachine gun and its Chinese-manufactured version Type-50. The dates given in W7.12 and W7.13 are a simplification; the Soviet-Armed squads will not be available before April 1951, but the Initial Intervention squads obviously do not all instantly disappear or rearm after that date.

The CPVA that intervened in late 1950 in Korea lacked any significant amount of radios and motor transport. In general, CPVA troops on the front line during that period suffered terribly from cold, hunger, and lack of ammunition, the latter being exacerbated by the wide range of ammunition types used by the variety of weapons in the CPVA arsenal. That primitive and deficient CPVA communications and logistics generally caused the effects portrayed in W7.11 is no surprise. Nor is the absence of OBA during that time period surprising, given that artillery is particularly dependent on good communications and ammunition supplies. Of course, a scenario designer can add an SSR when these generalisations did not apply.

Leadership:

The CPVA leadership model in Forgotten War (W7.3) is not a slight against the quality of CPVA leadership any more than similar leadership models are intended to denigrate Finnish and Japanese leadership. Again, look at the big picture rather than each element of the module in isolation. The leadership model that was chosen by the designers works well with the rest of the rules for the CPVA.

CPVA AFVs:

Later in the war, the CPVA did have a significant armored force in Korea. However, the only evidence of which we aware that claims this force (as opposed to the odd captured UN AFV being used) was actually engaged in combat with UN forces is traceable to one Chinese claim. We discovered no American after-action reports that describe losses to American armor caused by Chinese AFVs (one suggestive original source claims that Chinese tank guns were firing at U.S. troops; but after care examination of related sources, it is appears these “high-velocity rounds” were from direct-fire artillery). It’s axiomatic in military history that measures of one’s own losses are usually more reliable than claims of losses inflicted on the enemy. We disagree with Mark that including counters for vehicles that were present in theater but never saw combat is a good use of a finite number of countersheet spaces. If a scenario designer chooses to portray CPVA armor in a scenario, he can use Russian T-34/85, JS-2 and SU-76M counters. In addition, MMP informed us that if a counter did not see action it does not go in the box.

CPVA AA Guns:

As the war progressed, the CPVA became well equipped with AA guns. Such AA guns rarely were present in the front line within the scope of a typical ASL scenario. If a scenario designer chooses to portray CPVA AA guns in a scenario, he can use Russian 37mm and 85mm AA guns. Again, finite countersheets forced choices.

Night Rules:

It is true that Forgotten War has a lot of night scenarios for the simple fact that the Korean War had a lot of night actions. The US Army today likes to say that “We Own the Night” because of its excellent technology and proficient use of that technology. But during the Korean War, that technology did not exist and the Communist enemy preferred to fight at night because it tended to negate American advantages in artillery and airpower. Mark does not like the current night rules in E1 and laments that the Night rules were not revised in Forgotten War. But there is an unwritten but very real policy in “official” ASL that new additions to the ASL system must be backwards compatible with the existing system, including counters, rules, and scenarios. Making general ASL changes was simply outside the scope of Forgotten War.

Searchlight Combat:

Searchlight operations played a major part in the later stages of the Korean War. As mentioned previously, the CPVA used massed night attacks to mitigate American firepower and were very effective. The longest retreat in U.S. military history (U.S. Eighth Army in late 1950) was a direct result of effective CPVA manoeuvre and envelopment…at night. Searchlights took that advantage away from the Chinese.

Our research uncovered that searchlight tactics used against the Chinese were so effective that searchlight-equipped M46 and Centurion tanks became primary artillery targets, especially during the Battles for the Hook. Hide and seek tactics were developed. Tanks operating in pairs or groups. Shutters that could be opened and closed very quickly to minimize highlighting/silhouetting. We worked very hard to replicate these tactics in the rules. Searchlights are certainly chrome. That said, leaving them out or oversimplifying them would have been neglected a tactically significant aspect of the Korean War.

Two-Tone Counters:

Mark doesn’t like two-tone counters. De gustibus non est disputandum (“In matters of taste, there can be no disputes”), but we have been around the ASL community for 25 years and have never been aware of a significant group of players who don’t like two-tone counters (as opposed to the vocal opponents of overlays and terrain altering SSRs). The problem is that the sorts of colors that suit ASL counters (various shades of brown, tan, green, blue, and gray) are already taken, unless you want to either use minor and nearly indistinguishable variations of shade (which some find difficult to see) or use colors which just don’t seem to fit the game. Lavender counters, anybody? Furthermore, the use of two-tone counters has other advantages. ROK and Other United Nations Command forces were equipped by the US. Since their counters have a green border like American counters, they easily can use American SW, Guns, and Vehicles. The CPVA counters have a brown border like Russian and GMD counters, and they can easily use both Russian and GMD SW, Guns and Vehicles. In fact, MMP requires designers to fit their numbers of counters within a finite number of countersheets, and two-tone counters for some nationalities reduces the requirements for counters.

Small Forces: Rangers, American Paratroopers, Royal Marine Commandos, and Korean Marines:

Rangers, American Paratroopers, Royal Marine Commandos, and Korean Marines are unabashed chrome. These all were interesting forces that can be represented with very little rules overhead. Mark doesn’t seem to like this kind of chrome. The Forgotten Wars designers disagree. Judging by the plethora of obscure yet fascinating things in the system, so do most ASL players. Rangers and Royal Marine Commandos were true elite special operations troops, and their capability in Forgotten War are indicative of their training. The 7-4-7 American paratroop squads in World War II imply that those troops had a high percentage of submachine gun-armed soldiers. American paratroopers in the Korean War were armed with the M1 Garand rifle and not many submachine guns, hence the 6-6-7 value.

Rules Pertaining to Bayonet Charges and VT Fuzes:

Bayonet Charges were in fact occasionally used by UN forces in the Korean War. The inclusion of the rule in Forgotten War is simple and appropriate. Variable Time (VT) Fuzes for field artillery were first used by the U.S. Army in the Battle of the Bulge. They had an important effect on that battle and were very valuable in Korea when defending fortified positions against massed infantry attacks. Again, the rule in Forgotten War is simple and appropriate.

Rules Pertaining to HEAT and Bazookas:

The ASL armor penetration rules (C7) are fundamentally flawed and unrealistic in that they significantly misrepresent the actual interaction between ammunition and vehicle targets. Unfortunately, it is wildly impractical to do a wholesale overhaul of those rules, given the imperative of “backwards compatibility” and to maintain relative simplicity (if anyone has ever played the fun but very-detailed Tractics they know the issue). But the Forgotten War designers had a problem. The BAZ45, which equipped US Army and ROK troops in 1950, is somewhat effective against the T-34/85 in ASL. However, in 1950 Korea, the M9A1 launcher and M6A3 rocket which are represented by the BAZ45 counter were notoriously ineffective against that target. This is not an issue of chrome. The difference between ASL and historical performance greatly affected certain scenarios and had a real-life tactical impact. As a result, the Forgotten War designers chose to use rules W.8 and W.8A to model this important effect while avoiding an undesirable revision to C7.

Errata:

Players will observe that the astonishingly small amount of errata for Forgotten War is a testament to the combined efforts of the designers, the playtesters, and MMP.

In Conclusion:

The designers of Forgotten War remain confident that they have created an accurate, playable, and high-quality portrayal of ground tactical combat in the Korean War that fits well in the ASL system.

Kenneth Katz

Listen to Kenneth Katz’s interview on the 2HalfSquads: Episode 187 Kool Katz in Korea

Paul Weir : Did the 1st SS at The Battle of the Bulge have any Tiger Is?

One of the rockstars in the GameSquad ASL forums is the resident armor super-genius human Chapter H, Mr. Paul M. Weir. Mr. Weir has gratefully allowed the publication of his posts here.

pzvibThe Tiger II that accompanied 1SS belonged to 101/501 SS sPz Abt (heavy tank detachment). 101st got renumbered to 501st about Sept. ’44. 501st was a corps level unit (1ss Pz Korps), though originally built around the former 13th sPz Komp of 1SS Pz Rgt (1SS Pz Div). At full strength 501 had a HQ of 3 Tiger II and 3 14 Tiger II companies for a total of 45. At the start of Wacht am Rhein only 30 of the 45 took part in the initial offensive, the remaining 15 arrived after Peiper’s drive had long died, due to transport difficulties.

1SS had a Pz Regt with 2 Abteilungen (detachments/battalions). The 1st Abt should have had 76 Panthers and the 2nd 76 or 96 Pz IV with 3 Panthers and 5 Pz IV in Regt HQ. The Germans were only able to scrape up close to 37 Panthers and 34 Pz IV. That was sufficient for an Abt HQ (3 Panthers) and 2 each 2 companies of 17 Panther/Pz IV respectively. I can’t be arsed to check but I think it was 1st & 2nd (Pz IV) and 6th & 7th (Panther) that made up 1 Pz Abt. So they only had a single Abt’s worth of their own tanks and were loaned 501 SS SPz Abt to stand in for the missing 2 Pz Abt. 1SS Pz Div also had 21 Pz IV/70 aka JgPz IV L/70 but no StuGs, Marders, Wespes or Hummels. They did have SP 7.5cm (SdKfz 251/9) and 15cm sIG 33 on SdKfz 138/1 Grille.

pzvie1SS did get issued a company’s worth of Tiger I early in ’43, I think just during/after 3rd Kharkov. These were used through Kursk and until 1SS got sent home and rebuilding. The genesis of 101 SS sPz dates to the removal of 1SS, for West rebuilding, diverted to Italy. The 3 SS Pz divisions each had a Tiger I company but as 1SS and 2SS were withdrawn 3SS Totenkopf was the only one to retain Tiger I. Totenkopf and the Heer’s Grossdeutchland were the only divisions to finish the war with any type of Tigers and also both Tiger I not II. So 1SS had not had any Tiger on the books by the end of ’43. The SS Tiger I in Normandy belonged to 101 sPz SS Abt and 102 SS sPz Abt.

The only Tiger Is that I can think in WaR of belonged to sPz 301 (Fkl) which had 31 rebuilt Tiger I acting as command vehicles for RC demolition vehicles (Bogward IV) and that was a Heer (army) unit.

So 1SS only had the loan of Tiger II in 501 SS sPz Abt and had had no Tiger I since leaving Russia.

Were there any ‘Ferdinand’ TDs in the battle, at Bastogne, with Peiper, or at St. Vith? What TD or AG or SP, which looks most like a Ferdinand TD, was deployed with the VG divisions?

While I can’t recall the details, I’m fairly certain that KG Peiper was doomed by the time the last 15 arrived. With the demise of KGP, the 501 SS sPz Abt was in need of rebuilding. After the dregs of KGP escaped the 1SS withdrew for reorganisation and eventually reappeared near Bastogne. By that time 501 SS sPz Abt was no longer rigidly attached to 1SS and had reverted to being a corps unit, though obviously strongly associated with 1SS. So post KGP time would have been spent regathering scattered vehicles and repairs, including the 15 latecomers.

I don’t have a good number for the Tiger II losses in the initial offensive, but have a vague memory of only about 7 Tiger II pocketed with KGP. The buggers were just too slow to keep up and be pocketed. Allowing for recovered breakdowns 501 should have had about 2/3 of its official strength at least recoverable if not yet fit for combat by the time of the end of KGP.

pzjgNo Ferdinands/Elephants in Wacht am Rhein (WaR). The source of the confusion might have been the presence of sPzJgrAbt 654 which was one of the original two Elephant battalions, was in WaR but equipped with Jagdpanthers and the other, sPzJgrAbt 653 was involved in Nordwind and had Jagdtigers.

The VG divisions had a PzJg Abt with a towed 7.5cm PaK 40 battery (9, usually 12 guns), a SP light FlaK company (12 x SdKfz 10/5) and a SP battery with 10 (HQ 1, 3 platoons of 3) or 14 (2, 3 x 4) Hetzers or StuG III. All WaR divisions might also have had support from corps and army level StuG (usually 31 StuG, though up to 45) and sPzJg (45 Hetzers or 30-31 Hetzers and 14-15 Jagdpanthers) units. They also had either a Füsiliere (recon+assault) company or battalion which was mainly bicycled infantry and a few armoured cars (if they were lucky).

Pz IV/70 aka JgPz IV with 7.5cm L/70 gun were only issued to Panzer divisions PzJg Abt, typically 21 Pz IV/70 and 12 towed PaK 40.

Marder I/II/III usually equipped Pz and PzGren divisions but by then had practically disappeared, being replaced by JgPz IV and Pz IV/70.

StuG III could be in nearly anything; anybodies PzJg Abt, StuG Abt/Brigades or even Pz Regt, replacing the by now scarce Pz IV.

Paul M. Weir

(Note: I added the counter art, any error’s all mine.)

Paul Weir : What types of M4 Shermans did US forces use in Europe?

One of the rockstars in the GameSquad ASL forums is the resident armor super-genius human Chapter H, Mr. Paul M. Weir. Mr. Weir has gratefully allowed the publication of his posts here.

M4M4A1M4: The original design with radial petrol engine, M4A1 had the same engine but a cast hull, so I will deal with them together. Initially the preferred engine, both M4 and M4A1 (75) saw service from Torch to war’s end. They would have been the sole combat models until late ’43, early ’44 and between the two would still just have been the largest percentage of M4’s by VE day. Both later got better front hull armour (thicker at 47° vs older 56° from vertical). From early ’44 the M4A1 got the 76mm while some of the M4 were 105mm armed. From memory of photos the 105mm M4 always had the later 47° hull whilst many of those late 75mm M4 had a cast front (aka composite hull). A composite hull M4 would be a M4A1 in ASL terms. The 76mm M4A1 first saw service in Operation Cobra. Not sure when the 105mm M4 saw combat, but I suspect late French campaign. The British fitted 17lbr to M4 but not to M4A1. What looks like a 17lbr M4A1 is actually a 17lbr M4 (composite hull).

M4A2M4A2: Diesel twin engines. Starting with 75mm and 56° hull, they progressively went to 47° hull and finally 76mm. Used by the US for training, saw US combat service only with the USMC. Most LL to the USSR, Britain and France, in order of priority, indeed one of the USMC batches was “stolen” from a USSR allocation. Only the USSR used the 76mm versions.

M4A3M4A3: Ford petrol twin engine. Had all the variations of the M4A2, but also had a 105mm version. Indeed it is quite difficult to tell the 2 apart, only the different horizontal engine decks are a good guide. Though some may have been used mid-Italy campaign, it was really D-Day onwards when they would have seen much service. 75mm, 47° hulls, I suspect Cobra+ and the 76mm and 105mm versions only becoming common by the end of the French campaign. The USMC eventually switched to the M4A3 from the M4A2. The US switched from considering the M4/M4A1 engine as the preferred one to the M4A3’s Ford.

M4A3E2M4A3E2: Doled out in handfuls to (mainly) M4A3 battalions. I think they were preferentially given to separate tank battalions allocated to infantry divisions, though some saw use in armoured divisions. NW Europe only.

shervaM4A4: 5 car engines fused together!!! US training only, LL to Britain and possibly France. Only 56° and 75mm, though the British fitted their 17lbr.

M4A5: Not a Sherman, but a type designation for the Canadian Ram tank.

M4A6: Diesel radial engine. Training/development only.

Italy: M4 & M4A1 throughout the campaign. M4A3 starting to appear mid-’44, likely as new battalions fed in.

Northwest Europe: Initially mainly M4 & M4A1 with some M4A3. In the immediate post invasion many separate and armoured division battalions were shipped straight from the US. These seem to be mainly M4A3 variants.

Mixing: M4 and M4A1 were practically interchangeable, so while many units would have started as pure M4 or M4A1, replacements could have been either. Naturally the USA preferred that M4/M4A1 were not mixed with M4A3 but there were times like very late ’44 when the USA was running short due to losses. The British either offered or gave the USA some of their Shermans at that time. So you would see awkward mixes, especially when allocating 76mm and 105mm variants. The US could readily support logistically such less than optimal mixes.

Gun Mixes: From Cobra+ expect to see no more than 20% 76mm, the rest 75mm. By Bulge 40% 76mm and by VE 60%+ 76mm. The problem was that was not uniform. From memory, one of the post D-Day, direct from the US shipped armoured divisions came entirely equipped with M4A3(76) whilst most active M4A3 battalions could only dream of them.

105mm: Initially issued as a 3 tank platoon per tank battalion, later 1 was additionally added to each 17 tank M4-whatever company. So for 54 M4-? (75mm/76mm) tank battalion you could have 3 or 6 105mm M4/M4A3 in addition. They did not replace 75mm/76mm gun tanks. Production of M4A3(105) was roughly twice that of M4(105).

56° vs 47°: The early M4-? had 2″ at 56°, later upgraded (except M4A4) to 2.5″ at 47°. While almost the same effective horizontal line of sight thickness the 47° hull was a single plate without the driver/assistant driver hatch excrescences of the earlier 56° hull multi plate front, thus stronger. The 47° hulls also had bigger hatches allowing easier bail out.

As an addition to the above information I might as well complete the US battalion organisation by mentioning the light tanks and other lesser creatures.

A typical US battalion

The original OoB had a tank regiment with 1×3 company light tank battalion and 2×3 company medium battalions, each with 17 tanks/company and 3 in battalion HQ. The Battalion HQ had a 3 vehicle assault gun platoon and often a 3 vehicular 81mm halftrack MTR platoon. The assault gun platoon started with the likes of the T30 HMC (USVN 35), then the M8 HMC Scott (USVN 43) and finally by mid-late ’44 the M4(105) or M4A3(105) (USVN 17). The MTR platoon used the M4, M4A1 and M21 halftracks. That organisation was in effect until mid-late ’43 and indeed the 2nd, 3rd Armoured continued to use that “heavy” organisation until war’s end. In practice light and medium companies were often swapped to give 3 equal battalions with 1 light and 2 medium companies. A US “heavy” Armoured Division had 6 light and 12 medium companies total in 2 regiments. During ’43 the heavy organisation was replaced by the light version. That abolished the tank regiment and instead had 3 tank battalions. Each battalion had a similar HQ and 1 light and 3 medium tank companies, like before with 17 or 18 tanks for a divisional total of 3 light and 9 medium companies. The upside was the infantry component got beefed up at battalion level.

The light tanks started with M3 and M3A1 but by Sicily they started to or had been replaced by M5 and M5A1. By Wacht am Rhein tiny numbers of M24 had appeared but took some time to displace the M5A1s.

Now be aware that all the above is just an overall broad sweep picture. For designing scenarios always use AARs, TO&E unit details where you can lay your hands on them. You will undoubtedly find exceptions but the above should not lead you too far astray.

Paul M. Weir

(Note: I added the counter art, any error’s all mine.)

PS For more on Shermans, Witchbottles recommends the article “Wheels of Democracy” by Jeff Petraska from Avalon Hill Game Magazine vol 25 issue 3

JR Tracy on : Gun Placement

f2a2eba99832432bb40e3e63422b312e“I think Stewart and Nadir offer sound general advice, which I will repeat in a slightly reworded form just because I love chiming in on this sort of thing.

Gun placement has to be considered in the context of the scenario, first and foremost. Think of your setup holistically, with mutually supporting elements, a plan for every piece, and a piece for every plan.

As Stewart says, know what your opponent needs to do and how much time he has to do it. That guides your general line of defense – up front to disrupt or even stuff an attack under severe time pressure, or deep to influence the endgame of a grinding assault. Also consider whether these are primarily tank killers or anti-infantry pieces. Even light ATGs can do a number on infantry, especially as acquisition stacks up and the crits start to flow.

Location-wise, try to identify obvious choke points, such as a bridge he has to cross. That’s probably the right locale for a gun, but sometimes a spot is so obvious it takes care of itself, as the enemy deliberately avoids it (but beware of the Sicilian Dilemma!). Also, if he starts on board with decent smoke assets, promising up front gun positions will find themselves socked in and possibly with no LOS whatsoever.

Nadir touches on terrain – buildings and woods are nice because a broken crew has rally terrain at hand without having to abandon their ordnance. However, that comes at the cost of doubled CA change DRMs. Also, note some ordnance can’t set up in buildings – the Soviet 76L ART piece probably tops the list of illegally set up guns, since so many people think of it as an ATG.

I find players are a little too afraid of hindrances when they place their ATGs. A wide field of fire suffering from +1, +2, or even +3 hindrances is more effective than a limited but pristine arc. Take this into account when considering the gun’s vulnerability, too. If a position is substantially more survivable but suffers from an added hindrance as a result, it might be worth embracing.

I am not a big fan of aggressive ambush locations, such as an isolated orchard hex on an extreme flank. You might get devastating flank shots but you also might not even see an enemy AFV. Some monster scenarios provide enough materiel to support such shenanigans but small and mid-range cards typically demand a coordinated effort. Gambit placements will leave you short-handed on the main axis of attack more often than not.

Finally, an out-of-place gun remains an asset as long as it’s hidden – the enemy will obsess over where and when it will appear. However, that fear and anxiety might not be doing you as much good as actual 50mm APCR rounds, so don’t forget manhandling. As Nadir points out, you can hustle a gun into position relatively easily if the terrain allows, and adding a squad to help out will guarantee you move a lighter piece a couple hexes a turn.

Good luck, and have fun!”

(A gentleman asked for advice on Gun Placement in ASL.  Mr JR Tracy gave it a brilliant writeup which I think bears repeating.  So I asked him for his permission.)

Point Blank! NorCal’s & SVASL’s Newsletter is here. Yes – THE set.

screenshot 2019-01-19 at 14.15.46

Gents, Witchbottles made his set of “Point Blank!” available!

In here, you will find gems like :

  • ASL rules for Vietnam
  • Discussions on the “reverse slope defense” in Red Barricades
  • Indepth study of the Waffen SS
  • A look at Edson’s Ridge (Operation Watchtower)
  • Attacking on a Timeline: Planning an Assault
  • A SASL CG involving “Tiger Ace” Otto Carius
  • A review of the excellent (and free) Provence Pack
  • Defending at Night
  • Scenario Analysis & AARs

.. and obviously much much more!!

Get the set here : https://www.dropbox.com/sh/kuvhe53eqjxn1ua/AADjM4622xPieSCzcBRW5zTaa?dl=0

 

The Truth About VASL

 

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VASL stands for “Virtual Advanced Squad Leader”, a platform created by Mr Rodney Kinney for the enjoyment of ASL’rs worldwide.

On one platform you have most if not all the mapboards, overlays and counters you need.  You can play online versus anyone anywhere in the world (with Skype or Discord).  You can also choose to play via email (PBeM).  I have regular live games sessions scheduled with few of my buddies weekly.  We pick up on a saved game and make a some progress every week.  We also chat about our jobs, our families and our lives – just like face-to-face gamers do.

VASL accelerated the development of ASL communities in Asia Pacific for example, where ASL’rs are spread far and wide.  No matter where you are, for as long as you have an internet connection, you will never run out of opponents.  In fact, you can play some of the most experienced ASL’rs in the world, folks who are delighted to show you how it’s done.  Before some Asia Pacific gamers even met each other in the Singapore, Manila or Siem Reap tournaments, we have already been talking to each other on a regular basis via VASL games.  When we met, we are already old friends.

It’s interesting to note that VASL is (largely) NOT created nor maintained by the companies that publish our ASL modules.  They are NOT part of our purchases.  We don’t have ANY rights to it.  We can’t expect any level of value but yet, it’s one of the best products I have ever used  .. and it’s free, freely updated and lovingly maintained.

VASL program, maps, overlays and counters are made & maintained by a group of ASL gamers like you and me, not game company executives who also play ASL, ASL gaming consumers like you and me.

You know, ordinary people: Dudes.  Bros.  Blokes.  Chaps.

Folks who have lives, families, jobs and aspirations.  Folks who love, laugh and worry.  Folks who sometimes struggle, like all of us do, to find time to play ASL.

Folks who feel compelled to give back to the ASL community, amidst all the conflicting priorities we all have.

Each VASL counter (substitute : overlays, maps) has to be created from scratch.  Two graphics to each counter, four for a nationality that step reduces.  Each piece of info : graphics and numbers are sized for visibility.  After the graphics are done (and info properly put in), intelligence is coded in to make VASL extensions.

We want squads to ELR or Battle Harden properly.  We want Chinese counters to go “Dare Death”.  We want SMCs to go “Heroic” but not MMCs.  We want IJA squads to stripe to the correct numbers.  We want LOS strings to work from any point to any point.  We want terrain to transform properly, or have entire sets of transformation built for specific scenarios.  Should that gun unlimber when you flip it over?  Can that support weapon dismantle?

We want NIGHT to look glorious and it does.  We want SNOWscapes to look chilly.  We want PTO to look unforgiving.

Someone somewhere decided to not do something else but to do VASL, for you and I.

Someone somewhere decided to do this day after day, and to do all this for free.

Versions after versions, bug fixes after bug fixes, modules after modules – one of the best things in life IS free.  There IS such a thing as a free lunch.

Next time you deal with / report issues to the VASL crew, perhaps you can also offer to help?

Advanced Squad Leader as a Window into Military History

An ASL newbie (but a veteran wargamer) from Taiwan shares his newfound love for ASL

Author: TouMu / Translator: Hong Kong Wargamer (The original in Chinese starts at the bottom of the translation.)

I’d like to share how I see Advanced Squad Leader (‘ASL’) as a vehicle to gain better insights to military history

First, let’s take a look at ASL’s shortcomings as such a vehicle:  

1. Each scenario generally portrays 12 to 20 mins of fighting, offering only a glimpse into the whole battle. 

2. Unless it’s a HASL (Historical ASL) module.  Geomorphic maps used in most scenarios offer only an impressionistic approximation of the actual terrain.  

3. Scenarios generally involve elements from actual fighting forces and not the whole.  

With these in mind, let’s talk about how ASL offers a great window (translator: a “Hollywood version” notwithstanding) into historical events.  

Allow me to build on the aforementioned “shortcomings”:

1. Precisely because generally each scenario involves less than 20 minutes of the most intensive fighting, ASL puts you right in the midst of the fighting.  You get better insights into the actual conditions facing frontline units.

For example: We all read about the intensity at Stalingrad, but how miserable was it?

Operational / strategic games give you stacks of counters that represents thousands/hundreds of people, which gets quickly decimated.  

ASL makes you learn what it means to have to battle for the first room and then having to regroup to clean up the next.

2. Yes, ASL scenario terrains are largely a combination of (translator: a huge number of) geomorphic boards and overlays (cost considerations?).  However, like miniatures, terrain features are meaningful. Hexes are not all generically designated “Movement +1” or “Defense +3” etc. It’s important therefore to consider your routes in both assault and retreat (translator: routs).  

You will also understand why it’s difficult to rally broken troops in the open and why it’s easier to gather your wits in woods and buildings.  

3. Although only elements of certain units participate in our cardboard battles, determination of unit combat power reference their real world counterparts. Ordnance and vehicles are also based on real world parameters.  

Perhaps ASL is a key to deeper insights into World War II battles.

Look  and you might gain better appreciation for the nameless heroes therein – a window into their bloodshed and sacrifices.

Yes, I don’t like being Eisenhower but I really appreciate heros like Major Dick Winters (translator: of “Band of Brothers” fame).   

If you hope to play ASL as “Eisenhower”, perhaps this game is not for you.  If you look to play ASL as “Winters” or thousands of other unnamed heroes, then ASL is your game.  

Here’s another thought: all war games are “simulations”, ie not real (translator: not even close simulations in most cases).

Real wars can’t be played.  Only games can be played.

Play ASL as a game, with all that it brings.  

War is not a game.  (Translator: and ASL is not war.)

Find a game that suits you and have fun playing it.  If nothing else, it’s a great platform to make friends all around the world.  

ASL is not for everyone but I hope this will give new players proper expectations for what ASL will bring.  

Note : Author TouMu is a leading member in the Taiwan ASLer Club, you can find their group on Facebook.  

(以下是原稿)

分享一下我怎麼從ASL學到歷史

先說它一般的缺點:

1、幾分鐘的戰鬥,無法一窺全貌。

2、除非是史實模組,否則地圖是用拼的,接近而非真實樣貌。

3、參戰只有某部分單位,而非全部。

有了這些先備知識,進一步來談,怎麼從「毛線棋」學到東西。

一樣是從缺點去思考

1、因為是幾分鐘的戰鬥,當你不是坐在後方,看著投影銀幕決定策略時,你更能體會前線士兵的真實感覺。

例如:我們都耳聞史達林格勒的慘烈,但怎麼慘?

戰略棋的呈現方式:就是投入了好幾萬人的算子

然後丟棄很快。

可是,ASL會讓你體會:才剛佔領客廳,卻又要清理廚房,那種寸土不讓的激烈。

2、雖然地圖是拼的(成本考量),但跟微縮模型一樣,地形是有意義的,不是抽象的移動力花費+1,防禦+3這樣而已

你的進攻與撤退,都是要考慮路線的。

你也會明白:為何潰散士兵,士氣很難重整,但在樹林與建築物,為何可以冷靜下來。

3、雖然是部分單位參戰,但戰力的設計,卻是有參考真實世界,武器、載具,也都是完全參照史實去設計。

而這一切,不妨想成是一把鑰匙,幫你打開通往該次戰鬥的故事大門。

去查,就會發現更多我們不知道的無名英雄事蹟。

而戰爭,正是他們去打,流血犧牲的。

所以,我不愛艾森豪。

我很敬重溫特斯。

當然,如果你是喜歡當將軍的,那麼,這遊戲也不太適合你就是。

還有一個很深刻的體會:所有的戰棋,都只是「模擬」,假的。

真實的戰爭,是不能玩的。只有「遊戲」才可以玩。

所以,就當遊戲去玩,其他,都是附加的。

戰爭的本質,不是遊戲。

找到適合自己的遊戲,開心的去玩它,並非勸退。

不玩,一樣可以是朋友聊天啊!

我是會希望留下來的人,知道自己在玩什麼遊戲,就不會用錯誤的想法,去要求它給你的感覺。