16 May 2012

GameTalk - An Otherwise Vulgar Brawl

Even before the advent of high-explosives, artillery was one of the most telling weapons on the battlefield.  Most casualties in WWI were caused by high-explosive, and the very term "shell-shock" refers to the effect that constant bombardment has on spirit of the fighting man.  But do wargames provide an adequate representation of the effect of classic and modern artillery?  How many games turn on the effective (or ineffective) use of artillery?  What are some examples of artillery done well...and not so well?

By: Jack Nastyface


Anonymous said...

I cannot think of any game (computer or board) that truly makes artillery the King of the battlefield. Most of the time if it is included it usually does not do much compared to what you read about in history as to how decisive arty fire really was.

The Big Board said...

So I think The Gamers do it mostly right.
Too effective in Tactical Combat System (TCS), Platoon level, too expensive and not deadly enough in Operational Combat System (OCS) and possibly just right in Simple Combat System (SCS).

I mention these as I have played them all very recently.

In TCS games, without Arty typically drag on, and become very attrition orientated, especially if tanks are missing too! Whereas if some house rules are not applied to the command and control of Arty in say GD '42, the Germans can wipe the floor!

OCS for which I am a definite beginner, seems to limit too much to my mind the use of arty. the supply cost is high, the effect nominal and I see that air tends to replace it for that 'blow the hole, or suppress the target' mission.
Most fans of OCS will say Arty is for suppression. I think not. Its a tool for killing, stopping an offense cold or begin an offense hot!

Brian said...

I remember seeing that picture at the Combat Arms School, a long time ago.

Most games seem to use artillery just as extra combat power you can apply from a distance - in many games it's interchangeable with airpower.

Some games have tried to get artillery right, and they have mostly been World War One games. I remember an old SPI magazine game, the Kaiser's Battle, where there were options for using artillery in different ways. I'm not familiar with TCS or OCS.

Reminiscing further with SPI, I remember how the Thirty Years War quad treated artillery: it could not move, disrupted but did not eliminate units (who then had to be finished off by assault), guns could be captured and turned on their former owners (!). Nice touches.

Brant said...

Keep in mind that per US doctrine, the top level effect for artillery is to "destroy" a unit, which means 30% of enemy unit killed (and 70% not!)

That can significantly degrade an enemy, but does leave them on the battlefield.

The much harder things to model are suppression, smoke, harassing fires, and/or counterbattery fire.

Brian said...

Again, while I may have seen that picture at the Combat Arms School, what I was taught there as an infantry officer was that artillery (and the mortars we used to have in our rifle battalions) was there to suppress the enemy, to keep his heads down and in one place while we went round one side and smoked him out of his holes...

besilarius said...

Perhaps the SPI Quad, Art of Siege.
You had to degrade the defences before any kind of attack, and that was ranged weaponry.
I do not mention artillery because one of the games was Alexander the Great's Sieg of Tyre.
The neatest game was the Siege of Lille, a Vauban fort.
A totally different kind of game, with the building of parallels, setting up of artillery batteries, sallies by the defenders.
Wish someone could do a port to the PC.

Brian said...

With its hexless map and ruler, Lille always seemed to me to be itself a port from a miniatures game!

Definitely another Road Not Often Taken in board games.

Anonymous said...

In Combat Mission: Battle for Normandy, arty is VERY effective. In fact, someone said once the game shouldn't be called Combat Mission but go by the name Fire Mission due to this fact. Scenario designers have had to nerf historical arty allotments accordingly to allow for a balanced game. This is how arty should be IMO, extremely effective against troops in the open and under trees, not so much against entrenched troops unless a direct hit is scored. Even against troops that are dug in, the suppression effect is noticeable and great at simulating the effects of real arty. All this is IMO obviously.