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-   -   AAR: "Enjoy the War." (http://forum.shrapnelgames.com/showthread.php?t=50783)

Wiking April 30th, 2015 11:27 AM

"Enjoy the War."
So as someone who was a tremendous fan of RERomine's DAR reports, I thought I'd put together some general thoughts and a few anecdotal reports. Nothing as thoroughly detailed as what he did, though they were absolutely tremendous and very professional. But I figure after so many years of playing and so many versions of WINSPWW2 I might have a few thoughts worth sharing.

Generally I've spent most of my time playing US Army, German, Russian or Japanese forces. I tend to favor the Germans or Russians simply for the sheer variety of equipment. I find I enjoy longer campaigns where I can grow my forces from pitiful pre-war tankettes and poorly equipped infantry and "earn" the better stuff. That's half the fun for me, at least! The other half is trying to represent a historical unit, though due to the limitations of the game I do make some adjustments for playability A good example of that would be my current campaign with 5. SS-Wiking; historically this unit did not have a tank battalion until spring of 1942, and a StuG battalion was only attached in August of 1941, a month after they'd gone into action in Russia. Since I started it off as SS-Germania Regiment I did attach a tank battalion and in France a StuG battalion to the regiment, but with a twist: I have been issuing myself more out of date and foreign equipment.

Skoda 35(t)'s in France is definitely a bit of a challenge, to say the least.

Its only with Barbarossa that I allowed myself to upgrade to Panzer III's and IV's and replaced my few remaining Panzer I's with II's. Even then I was not overly generous; I kept about a platoon of the 3.7cm gunned III E's and the thinner armored Panzer IV C's and D's each. So my force is still a bit squishy, though very well rated in terms of experience thus far. Not too historical maybe, but not some kind of Teutonic death machine.

Some general thoughts and musings follow:

StuG's are some of my favorite pieces of equipment in this game, and its pretty historical to have a battalion of them to reinforce your infantry for almost any unit you can imagine. But boy, those shorter barrels early on really suck for accuracy. More than that, the limited number of shots means I find this unit more useful as a "fire brigade." As my SS-Pioniers tend to be my most experienced and deadliest troops, I like to pair them with the StuG's as a kind of rapid reaction force on the defense and in meeting engagements. Really, if there's something the StuG's and Pio's cannot handle, then nothing could. They'll really be a hard bitten bunch by the time of Stalingrad (which Wiking did not historically participate in).

I tend to enjoy the larger battles on the larger maps, the smallest I tend to play being 100x100 for earlier in the war and I expand that for Russia. I feel having more territory than you can realistically control at a given time is very true to the experiences of the German soldiers in the east, and it means that the A.I. often can infiltrate or flank you unexpectedly. Indeed, just like in real life I often anchor a flank with marshes or some impassable draw that I assume the Soviets cannot possibly penetrate; just to have them show up in my backfield much later on! You'd think I'd have caught on by now.

The humble (sw) Infanterie squad is probably one of my greatest assets. I don't much care for the 5cm mortar in and of itself, but combined with a sniper rifle and an AT rifle it can be used to "fill a hole" in the line anywhere its needed. Their large size also means they're much less likely to get killed off, like my normal AT rifle squads tend to be. Snipers in general are far more useful than I ever thought. It was during one of my Russian playthroughs that I started to really appreciate them (and I think everyone has a memory of a lone Polish or Greek sniper killing a tank with a hand grenade!). In my current SS playthrough they tend to have more kills than anyone and act as excellent scouts. You definitely get what you pay for, just don't expect them to be supermen.

While I generally agree with the common wisdom that 15cm and up is overkill for many battles and just makes your advance harder by breaking up the ground, I do have to say that of the infantry guns I much prefer the 15cm sIG over the 7.5cm IG. It carries a hefty number of rounds, has a decent rate of fire and pummels the crap out of whatever you hit with it. It also, surprisingly, does very well in bombardment. Not common practice as I understand it, but I find it more useful than trying to drag the thing right in front of the enemy and lobbing shells. Eventually I'll upgrade these to Sturmpanzers, wanting to experiment with using them more directly that way when they can take a few hits. I had good results using my ISU-152's and ISU-122's in this fashion.

A passing thought...anyone else feel like the LMG's don't get most of the kills? I suspect its due to the weapon multiplier on the first slot for rifles. Its not really a deal breaker, but I'd say the lowly Mauser K98 has caused many more losses to the enemy than most of my machineguns have. Not a complaint so much as an observation. I do find having a pair of LMG's per squad when I get Panzergrenadiers later is very tasty, and evens the odds considerably.

Most will probably think I'm a loon but I tend to buy the maximum core size possible, and here's how it currently breaks down as of June 1941:

Kommandeur der SS
Infanterie Kp SS+
Infanterie Kp SS+
Infanterie Kp SS+
Pionier Kp SS
Artillerie abt. (custom formation, for letting me field towed guns in a kp rather than in detached platoons)
off-map 15cm abt for counter-batttery fire primarily.
Panzer Kp (Panzer IV's and II's)
Panzer Kp (Panzer III's and II's)
Panzer Kp (Panzer III's and II's)
StuG abt (consisting of 3 batteries of StuG's with 4 vehicles per battery)
3x Panzerjaeger zug (a mixture of AT guns, self-propelled PaK 38's mounted on Sdkfz 10's and the odd Panzerjaeger I that survived France)
and a quartet of 8.8cm FlaK's that I keep in reserve for defensive battles.
I also have three AA FLaK batteries, building experience for later in the war when I'll really need them.

I tend to buy the trucks separately out of my support points, as I treat the kampfgruppe as a self-contained fighting force for the most part. I also built an SPW kp for later in the war so I can buy half-tracks in a large formation to move forward one or two companies when the division reaches Panzergrenadier/Panzer division status.

Overall I have found this is a combat-heavy battlegroup that can handle most things. It relies on the infantry to do most of the scouting and recce, making first contact so that the Panzers can strike from a favorable angle and gain the advantage. I will at times buy armored cars or motorcycle troops from support points if I have a particularly rough advance or assault mission and don't want to lose too many experienced troops on the approach.

More to come later.

Wiking April 30th, 2015 02:51 PM

Re: "Enjoy the War."
Some quick thoughts on the long campaigns:

I tend not to replace destroyed units until an appointed period of "Refit" is reached. As an example, any unit that was destroyed during the Polish campaign I would not "Fix" or "Change" until I reached May 1940. This meant that over time, especially heavy combat or in-cautious decisions could leave a tank or infantry company well under-strength. It meant I also had to make careful decisions about which companies to commit to the main line and which to hold in reserve.

As an addendum, I make a point of repairing infantry squads up as long as they're not totally destroyed. For a long time I tried leaving them un-repaired until they hit 50% manpower but I found that artillery would disperse them far too quickly and easily and my core forces quickly bled out experience. It also meant I had to spend more rallies than I really could afford to.

Sometimes with replacements, especially if its in the middle of an ongoing campaign (like Russia) I'll issue out foreign equipment for a bit of a change of pace. So say I lose an MG37(t) or MG34 MMG, I may replace it with a Polish Maxim gun or a captured Russian one. Same with artillery. I don't do it with tanks very often as I found that the wild speed differences don't make it worthwhile, and their combat worth is extremely marginal many times. If I do it, I will at most replace a platoon.

I used to use captured T-34's all the time, but now I try to limit that to instances where I can clearly say that my forces occupied an abandoned enemy vehicle, so it usually means no more than one or two of those operating in my core by late 1941.

Later in the war (1944 onwards) I am toying with the idea of allowing parts of companies to be completely destroyed or only replacing when down to a bare handful of men to signifiy an increasingly dangerous situation. I feel like this all helps with the spirit of the campaign, and also to increase the challenge as my experience grows in my core.

As another addendum to my OOB, I do intend to break with historicity again in early 1943 by deleting the Panzerjaeger platoons and buying a Tiger I company. This may sound remarkable to most of you but I haven't got much experience using Tigers! I mostly have played early and some mid-war, so rarely do I get a chance to try them out. I have certainly used Russian heavies a lot, but I feel like their utility is quite different. Tigers are definitely more long range than the short range brawlers of the KV series.

Wiking May 1st, 2015 06:54 PM

Re: "Enjoy the War."
Almost wrapped up the June fighting in the USSR. Some more thoughts follow:

I find myself being of two minds about artillery. On one hand, I know my men really appreciate it when I can do anything possible to reduce incoming mail, as the A.I. loves to hammer a location where it thinks you are. Sometimes it thinks rightly! And its not always possible to shift forces when you're bogged down in a fight and don't want to draw additional op-fire just to re-position away from artillery.

On the other hand, especially now that I'm on Der Ostfront, I find that the repeated infantry waves are best handled by pinning with machine-gun fire and then broken up with massed artillery. This takes time and shells that cannot be used against enemy artillery. So on a case by case basis, I have to decide what is the greater threat at a given time.

I must mention and re-mention how much I hate the Soviet 76mm "Rat's Tail." I loved using a platoon of these in my Soviet scenarios, but being on the receiving end is just too much! My one saving grace is that the computer usually puts them in the worst places for line of sight, and my mortars have racked up a lot of kills in neutralizing them.

Wiking May 6th, 2015 12:05 AM

Re: "Enjoy the War."
Finally into July now. The fighting around Smolensk has been quite tough, mostly due to some AFV losses suffered during the fighting in Eastern Poland. None of the Panzer companies are heavily depleted but October and Operation Typhoon are a long way off. Smolensk and Kiev will greatly wear down my forces even if I do well, so I'll have to carefully husband my elites and veterans.

So far only a single KV-2 has been encountered, of the dreaded KV and T-34 families. It was mostly ineffective and withdrew after fierce fighting around Bialystok. Frankly I don't consider them a very grave threat, as they tend to fire on the move and this is horribly inaccurate. Either I plot artillery or close assault with infantry and move on.

Artillery has time and again been the key to breaking the Russian, and while we have not made use of rolling bombardments like the British, we do believe in maximum concentration of fire. The artillery regiment has been supplemented for the Smolensk campaign with some of the new Nebelwerfers. They've proven quite effective against enemy gun crews, and I think that's the utility I finally needed for them. Infantry or dug in units tend to need repeated hits, even in the open. But exposed gun crews that are strewn around an area are quite susceptible to a sudden and devastating rocket bombardment. Previously I'd been rather disappointed with the vaunted screaming mimi's so this is a welcome discovery.

So I found a new way to bleed points for the enemy: trucks! I employ a Kfz 70 Horch motorised battalion and each one costs about 12 points. Through careless maneuvering I let a T-26 shoot up several of them and when I realized the cost I suddenly felt a bit silly for letting a support unit die when it didn't need to! I never used to care much when trucks died but now I think I may have to care a little more, since some of these battles can get pretty close in points...

The Panzer II has found a new lease on life with me also. Previously whenever I used them they'd just die incessantly. Well, they still die more than I'd like, but I find that hanging just behind the infantry lets them shoot up enemy infantry and careless BT-7's that don't respect the fast-firing 2cm Kwk. I do intend to replace each light panzer platoon in the battalion with a full medium panzer platoon by July 1943, probably even before that.

Steves308 May 6th, 2015 10:17 PM

Re: "Enjoy the War."
Interesting to read how other people play this game. Keep posting!

And based on the size of your force, you are a loon ;^)

Wiking May 6th, 2015 10:38 PM

Re: "Enjoy the War."
Thanks! Haha, I've been accused of much worse, so I'll take it. Its a running complaint in my mind that I can't add a Recce and AT company as well as everything else into the core. I don't think its technically possible without a whole lot of headaches, as 200 units was the hardcoded core limit for SP2. I doubt Andy has any interest in trying to circumvent that just for one player, so I'd never bother requesting something preposterous like that.

Steves308 May 7th, 2015 01:06 PM

Re: "Enjoy the War."
How long does it take you to play a turn/game with such a large force? I usually play with Germans as a reinforced company, with the Russians as a battalion. And it will take me a couple of evenings to finish a battle...less time with SPMBT, as I feel that game flows quicker (or at least kills stuff faster ;^)

The only time I tried using forces as big as your are using was the Red Storm Rising campaign in SPMBT. I never finished it, as it took forever just to move all the units, and I never really managed to get more than a battalion into actual combat. I always wanted to redo that campaign with maybe a battalion instead of a whole regiment.

Wiking May 7th, 2015 02:24 PM

Re: "Enjoy the War."
Truthfully I usually modify the turn count to be no more than thirty. Both for time reasons and also because I feel that anything past that with such a large force is going to just allow the A.I. to reenforce failure. Frankly most of the time you will have the upper hand by turn ten to fifteen (especally in meeting engagements) and its just a matter of time. It helps to keep the kills from getting into ridiculous proportions. On average I run about 15-20 turns on a 100x100 map and this translates to I'd say about 3 days per battle, give or take. I don't play straight through, usually a few hours at a time and I'm watching stuff while I play.

Its quite relaxing actually, the big time killer is all the op-fire the A.I. does on both sides. I've gotten to the point where moving such a large force is not too tedious, and I start at the top of the map and work my way down the line. Often times you don't have full contact with the enemy until about turn 5-6 so the first few go very fast. I will make myself take a break if a favorite commander dies or if I feel like its turning into a slog. You also have to consider I've been playing since 1996 so I think if you do it enough it just doesn't seem much like a chore anymore! I do miss the faster pace of Close Combat sometimes though, believe me.

I do not recommend this setup unless you enjoy playing motorised or mechanized infantry, because its too little time for foot-sloggers to make it anywhere useful, even on a 100x100. At some point I may attempt to do the more sensible builds I saw RERomine do (which was about an infantry battalion plus one tank company + support elements at most).

Wiking May 7th, 2015 08:33 PM

Re: "Enjoy the War."
So I thought I'd recount the war journal for "SS-Germania" up till the Russian campaign.

We fought three battles in Poland, one at the Polish border, one outside Krakow and one inside the ancient city. Nothing especially noteworthy as I've done Poland countless times, but the city-fight in Krakow was the most interesting. I used one of the Warsaw maps prebuilt in the game, and it worked well for that task. We had fierce street fighting but as the Poles lacked time to entrench their defenses they could only delay us. One utility I discovered of the otherwise questionable level bombers was to use them as a kind of crude recce. At the start of the battle even if their bombs landed nowhere near the enemy, they often got a glimpse of enemy artillery and tank positions, which allowed us to more accurately suppress the enemy.

France was a series of six battles, consisting of Laon, the Seine River, a battle in Zeeland, one in Western France and curving back to Amiens and ending at Dunkirk. The French were intractable as usual, with my Skoda 38 and 35's being worse than useless against the majority. I had to engage with either 8.8 cm guns or close infantry assault which on most early war SS infantry are sorely lacking. The SS-Pioniers were the real saviors here, eliminating multiple heavy tanks with heavy losses. Most are now elite status because of France alone! The British were rough enough though, as their plethora of AT rifles (something the Poles also had much of) made life dangerous for my depleted Panzer battalion. But the true danger was in their artillery, which is always very heavy, frequent, and dangerously accurate. I loathe British artillery even more than Russian for those reasons. Zeeland was my sole battle against the Dutch and they surprised me with their tenacity despite lacking even medium machineguns in any appreciable number or any significant artillery. Their Anti-tank guns and marines made for tough foes as I attacked across flooded dikes and muddy fields, leaving me with a few embarrassing losses and nearly costing me the battle!

I will be very frank, the Balkan campaigns are pretty much a pushover, so much so that I edited most missions to be not more than 10-15 turns at most to keep the flow going. The Yugoslavs are probably the most pitiful army you'll fight in any Long Campaign, as they simply do not have the experience, morale or technology or even numbers to keep you from doing as you please. The Greeks put up a hard fight but until they receive British equipment in April they are not a serious threat either. Even then they fight hard but can do little to stop you. I found them dangerous mostly in their stubbornness, not out of any technical proficiency. The fights against the ANZAC and British forces were fairly easy for the most part, as they used the same equipment as in France. This time however, I had up-armored Skoda 38(t)'s to show for my efforts, and it made things easier.

Finally, we came to the end of that interminable campaign and launched into Russia with fresh reinforcements, new tanks and new leaders.

Zardoz May 19th, 2015 07:33 AM

Re: "Enjoy the War."
Thank you very much for your reporting.

Concerning the difference between tayloring a battlegroup from historical available force if you want tp play the role of a "real" unit" and the force you would like to have, I prefer the historical approach. To deal with the limitations is for me much more fun than having always the best equipment.

Nevertheless, you can explain additions by building up a battle group with some units drawn from army or corps (in SS case), if needed. So, the army your battle group is attached to, will have units needed by you ;-) and beef you up!

And I love it to have a story combining the battles.

I myself recently started a campaign in June 1941 with a German infantry bataillon and an AAR (in German). If things go well I will try to augment the force with StuGs oder Panzerjäger. At the moment I have only an AT company whith czech Guns. But that is for me the real fun ... try to survive and be able to change to 76,2mm-"prey-guns ... or have to deal with T34 in the winter with other items (what most of the German infantry had to do in 41 and 42).

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