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Three Towns (Stafford vs Drifter Man DAR)

Drifter Man

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What to do with the Easter weekend... let's plan a massive battle in CM, of course.

I fought my first battle against Stafford - a small but a rather lengthy one - reported here:
https://www.thefewgoodmen.com/thefgmforum/threads/new-ladder-report-submitted.32651/
I was impressed how Stafford won by knowing when not to fight... Sun Tzu would approve.

For our second round, Stafford chose a massive 1.8 x 3.8 km CMBN map by Wynntergreen, called Three Towns. This map has seen serious fighting before: https://community.battlefront.com/topic/111574-12000-point-video-aar/
We are setting up a 10,000 point meeting engagement on this map, but unlike Dutch Grenadier vs Strachwitz eight years ago, the setup zones are now on the short edges of the map (East vs West instead of North vs South). I will play as Axis (German Army) against Stafford as Allies (British Army). @Concord kindly agreed to set up the scenario for us.

It is 20th July 1944 in France, 1250 hrs, ideal weather (clear, warm, dry ground, gentle wind from the West). We have 2 hours and 30 minutes to decide the outcome. Rarity is set to standard. The objectives are worth 400 points and enemy casualties are worth 600.
House rules: No TRPs and no pre-planned strikes; max. 30% of points can be spent on vehicles armed with gun caliber over 0.50; and all troops are regular with 0 leadership and 0 motivation modifiers.
 

Drifter Man

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First thing... the map. Of course it is massive, although turning it by 90 degrees and going West to East makes it a bit more manageable. As the name suggests, there are three towns - Wynton, Louvoy and Halberg - placed in that order going from my setup zone to the opponent's. Each town is worth 120 points. Wynton and Halberg are placed close to my and Stafford's setup zones... "close" in relative terms. They are is still about 500 meters away, but they are the home objectives for each side. Louvoy is the smallest of the three, and sitting in the middle of the map it is supposed to become contested first. In addition, there are two smaller objectives, each worth 40 points: Littlefield and Rexton. These are again close to the setup zones. We will be fighting for terrain and to inflict casualties, but there are few points readily up for grabs at the objectives.

The town names don't sound like something in France... perhaps except Louvoy. Not that it matters. Wynton could be a reference to the map author.

ThreeTowns_TopoMap.jpg

As you can see, I had a bit of spare time last week. This is probably the only battle I am fighting this year, so I decided to prepare thoroughly, and made a topo map of the area. The terrain has gentle slopes, with a few low hills and a few valleys in between. Plenty of tree cover, crops and tall grass giving opportunities for concealment - should be good for an infantry battle. The hills north and south of Louvoy, plus the distance, separate the eastern side of the map from the western side - you can't see much of one side from the other until you reach these hills. The hill south of Louvoy (elevation 36, the highest point of the map) does not make a great vantage point because of the tree cover, but it can be used to conceal movement. The series of hills north of Louvoy offer observation into the town as well as around the northern part of the map. I am coming in from the West (from the Wynton side) and I will be interested in taking these hills and the woods south of Louvoy, plus the hill at the southern edge (33)... i.e. everything.

As a broad plan, I will start by securing Wynton and then probe the entire width of the map (1800 m), until we get into solid contact. I am not going to rush forward at all costs - I do not mind if the fighting takes place on my side of the map. Our forces are sufficient for either of us to build a line from north to south plus reserves in the rear - on trucks or halftracks - ready to pour in to stop enemy breakthrough. Armor is limited by to the 30% house rule. Achieving a local armor superiority to support an assault at a focal point should be possible especially for Stafford (not so much for me, because as you will see, I chose assault guns rather than tanks and the threat of getting flanked is of great concern to me).

A note on the wind - we will both have the capacity to make plenty of smoke. The wind (gentle) is from the West, blowing in my back. So, smoke screens in the N-S direction should be laid on linear targets - the natural spread of artillery rounds will not provide for the needed breadth of the screen.

CM Normandy 2021-04-04 13-38-57-94.jpg
View from my side from the Southwest. Between the three peaks nearest to the camera (36, 30 and 33) there is a valley through which I can pass without getting spotted unless Stafford reaches the woods around Hill 36. The tree lines near the camera offer some observation into Stafford's setup zone, but that is too far to actually see anything except vehicles.

CM Normandy 2021-04-04 13-39-19-86.jpg
Another view from my side, this time from the Northwest. The high ground north of Louvoy, covered with a few scattered wood patches, provides observation to the Northeast and into Louvoy.

CM Normandy 2021-04-04 13-39-51-66.jpg
A view from the opponent's side, from the Northeast. His major home objective - Halberg - is to the left. Hill 32 North of Halberg can serve as observation post for Stafford and a site for mortars or armor. A bit too far from the center of the map for any small arms to be very effective - it is about 700 m away from Louvoy.

CM Normandy 2021-04-04 13-40-36-31.jpg
Another view from the opponent's side, from the Southeast. The small 40-point objective Rexton (just 3 buildings) is close to the camera. Two lower peaks guard the southern approach to Halberg.
 

Drifter Man

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Force setup. I expect Stafford to have two British Infantry Battalions - at least one of them on lorries. The rest of the non-armor points will go to form additional reserves and add some off-map artillery, probably of the lighter kind (25-pounders). He should have 2-3 on-map medium mortar platoons with up to 648 HE rounds. For armor, he has several options, he could have around 10 Churchills or 15 Shermans or 30 Stuarts, or a combination of these. He will probably add some armored cars for scouting. In total, he will have well over 1000 men on the map.

For myself, I quickly settled on two armored panzergrenadier battalions. Apart from the obvious firepower advantage of the German 2-MG squads - which is less important to me this time - they come with halftracks for transport and offer the best value for money for mortar ammo for the Germans (except one SS unit type only available in September 1944). I deleted the heavy companies from both battalions (heavy mortars and Stummels), and from the heavy platoons I removed the cannon section (Stummels) and one of the two MG sections (I will use only 6 HMGs per battalion instead of 12; I don't see very good use for HMGs in this meeting engagement, but I can use them to set up some defended fallback positions). I deleted most transport halftracks, keeping "only" 17 vehicles, including two SPW 251/3 command vehicles. However, I kept the full strength of the mortar sections including their halftracks, for a total of twelve SPW 251/2 mortars with 1080 HE rounds.

Because the SPW 251/2 halftracks are unarmed (they carry ammo and you can deploy a mortar team inside, but that mortar team sells separately), I do not count them as "vehicles armed with a gun above 0.50cal". Although when you fire the mortar from the inside, they and the mortar together become just such a vehicle... I guess it's a bit of a grey area in our house rules.

One company of a third battalion - motorized panzergrenadiers, minus the heavy platoon - will form my strategic reserve. All 9 squads have panzerschrecks, which will be separated and sent into the fight with their armored brethren.

Armor is represented by an assault gun company from Panzer Sturmgeschütz Abteilung - a formation that was organic to some panzergrenadier divisions. I don't know if any were in Normandy and this specific formation is not available, so I used a 31-StuG Sturmgeschütz Brigade. To the company's 8 StuG III assault guns and 2 StuH 42 assault howtizers, I attached a Marder II using some spare points. I want as much tank-killing capacity as I can get. I know that Panthers would be better (I could have 8 of them for the same cost), but Panthers are boring. And Panzer IVs are too weak.

I have 918 men on map.

Two sections of 150mm SP Guns (Hummels) are available off map. I have three FO's ready to call for fire, which can be delivered in 9 minutes. I expect to use these heavy guns with the "harass" rate of fire - about one round per minute, adjusting targets frequently. Each section has 54 HE rounds. I also have a 120mm mortar section with 60 rounds.

Allied airpower is a concern, but I decided not to buy any flak. Disperse and hide will be the name of the game when I hear an aircraft flying over.

Force_setup.png
You may note that I delete the halftracks rather than setting the armored panzergrenadiers to "Dismounted". Dismounting makes them by 25% more expensive while adding just one man and a few short-range AT weapons. Not worthwhile in my opinion. So I'll pretend they just left their halftracks off-map.
 

Bulletpoint

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Impressive attention to detail, as we have come to expect from your AARs.

I'm guessing the reason you're not going for Panthers is also because you know that they will be more or less neutralised by the Fireflies Stafford is pretty sure to show up with?
 

Drifter Man

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Impressive attention to detail, as we have come to expect from your AARs.

I'm guessing the reason you're not going for Panthers is also because you know that they will be more or less neutralised by the Fireflies Stafford is pretty sure to show up with?
Good to have you here @Bulletpoint .

It is tempting to try to micromanage less when the battle is so huge, but that would be the road to defeat :) I try to pay the same attention to detail here as in a small battle.

Technically I'd prefer 8 Panthers to 10 StuGs in a meeting engagement, even against Fireflies. A tank is more flexible and Panthers specifically are outright tank killers. But as I said, they are boring. StuGs are more interesting. And Stafford doesn't necessarily go for the best stuff, either. I read his ladder reports, e.g. he buys the default mix of Churchills instead of having just the VII variant... Let's just have a good game. StuGs and panzergrenadiers should be fun.
 

Bulletpoint

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However, I kept the full strength of the mortar sections including their halftracks, for a total of twelve SPW 251/2 mortars with 1080 HE rounds.
Are you aware these are bugged? They fire quite slowly, stop fire missions prematurely, and they are unable to fire the last apprx. 1/4 of their ammo. Just something to keep in mind in your value estimate.

Firing directly, the mortar halftrack stops when it has 24 bombs left. Further fire orders are ignored.

Firing indirectly, it stops its fire mission when it has still many bombs left even though I select "maximum" duration. Giving a new maximum duration mission order, it then fires again, but once more it stops before it has expended the ammunition.

Seems the issue is that (1) the last 24 bombs are considered the personal property of the mortar crew, not the halftrack, and they are unable to fire those bombs from inside the vehicle. (2) someone forgot to type in the right ROF and (3) someone mixed up the amount of rounds fired so that "maximum" duration becomes "medium" duration.
 
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Drifter Man

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Are you aware these are bugged? They fire quite slowly, stop fire missions prematurely, and they are unable to fire the last apprx. 1/4 of their ammo. Just something to keep in mind in your value estimate.

Interesting - thanks for the warning. I was able to run one of these dry in my latest battle, but I am using them mostly as ammo carriers - the mortars deploy next to them and once they spend their ammo, they pick up more from the halftracks. Or you can tell the ammo bearers to acquire the ammo manually.
I think I would only use the halftracks for direct fire if I get very confident there is nothing out there to hurt them, but there still is the indirect fire issue. I will investigate this to avoid any surprises in the battle (y)
 

Bulletpoint

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On topic for the AAR, I'm looking forward to see how you will derive enough tactical value from the points spent mounting your infantry in halftracks.
 

Blady

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I love it, very curious to find out where this is going! Can I ask how you made the topo map? Looking at the picture I can only imagine you somehow drew the lines in the scenario editor, since they are "blocky" lines, but can't for the light of it think how you might have done that.
 

Drifter Man

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On topic for the AAR, I'm looking forward to see how you will derive enough tactical value from the points spent mounting your infantry in halftracks.
I think I know what you mean - given enough points, the German commander is tempted to build a mechanized force - all those toys! Just look at the video AAR I linked to at the start. I think it was the Allied commander there who extracted tactical value from the German purchase - by smashing halftracks loaded with troops.
1) Do I need transport? 2) should I choose trucks or halftracks? 3) if so, how many?

It is a big map, it takes infantry 30 minutes on Move to get to the center from the setup zone, unopposed. I could wait for Stafford to come to me, but that means giving up all initiative. However, to completely overcome the distance I would need to make the whole force mechanized, and then I would not have enough points left for stuff that actually fights. Instead I chose to give transports only to a small part of the group - one company, i.e. 1/7 of my infantry, has halftracks - actually I spread them through the whole force as needed. I won't use them to rush forward - just one company would be quickly overwhelmed without support of the rest of the regiment. I'll use them to quickly take some key positions to secure my starting line around Wynton, then withdraw them to help move other troops forward - with other elements providing cover all the way to the destination.

A special use for halftracks is to insert a small force (~1 platoon) in a surprise move, if there is the opportunity, where the opponent does not expect it. Again, such operation must be covered by other units. I pulled that off here: https://www.thefewgoodmen.com/thefgmforum/threads/new-ladder-report-submitted.31326/ (not much detail there in my description)

My plan is to use the two command halftracks for the Forward Observers, to move them around as needed - I hope this will increase the efficiency of my artillery. These SPW 251/3 are just for show, they cost the same as 251/1 and have only 6 seats - no advantage there. I don't plan to show them off too much though because they scream "shoot me".

About trucks, they cost 25 points, a halftrack costs 48. German halftracks are proof against small arms fire plus give some protection against near misses by HE, and are better off-road than trucks. So I went with halftracks - more flexible, more forgiving. I keep the gunner tucked in almost all the time.
 

Drifter Man

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I love it, very curious to find out where this is going! Can I ask how you made the topo map? Looking at the picture I can only imagine you somehow drew the lines in the scenario editor, since they are "blocky" lines, but can't for the light of it think how you might have done that.
You are right - I made it the hard way.
I exported map screenshots from the scenario editor, patched them together, and drew the lines over them. I used photopea (very handy and free online editor for those who don't have photoshop)
About halfway through I realized it was a bad idea, but with so much work in it already, I persisted :) So here you go.
 

Blady

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You are right - I made it the hard way.
I exported map screenshots from the scenario editor, patched them together, and drew the lines over them. I used photopea (very handy and free online editor for those who don't have photoshop)
About halfway through I realized it was a bad idea, but with so much work in it already, I persisted :) So here you go.
:ROFLMAO:
I suspected as much, and then I thought... "Nah, that can't be right. That's an enormous amount of work for a 1.8x3.8 km map!"
I tip my hat to you in respect! :whistle:
 

Drifter Man

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When you think about it, I'll be spending a lot more time on this map in the coming months, so poring over it for a few hours did not hurt that much after all. I know the map better as a result.
 

Blady

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When you think about it, I'll be spending a lot more time on this map in the coming months, so poring over it for a few hours did not hurt that much after all. I know the map better as a result.

True that. I've spent a ridiculous amount of time setting up for a defensive game a while ago, mapping all (small) hills, possible avenues of approach with their pro's and cons, defensive options, mapping all keyhole positions, etc. Even though the plan changes as soon as you hit that red button, what Eisenhower said still holds true: "Plans are useless, but planning is indispensable". You start off already knowing the terrain and it's possibilities rather then getting the knwo the map while you play. :)

About trucks, they cost 25 points, a halftrack costs 48. German halftracks are proof against small arms fire plus give some protection against near misses by HE, and are better off-road than trucks. So I went with halftracks - more flexible, more forgiving. I keep the gunner tucked in almost all the time.

Yeah, those gunners are quite exposed I have found, despite the gunshield. Though an extra MG is not something to think lightly off. If you have them (carefully) support the platoon from it's base of fire position to gain fire superiority, one or two HT's can really add a lot of "oompf". They're also extremely useful to upgrade "surplus" men like bailed-out gun or vehicle crews into MG teams. :D
 

Drifter Man

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People say the gunners are mainly vulnerable from the sides - the shield only provides protection right up front. I haven't tested it myself (and haven't played with halftracks enough), but I've seen enough dead gunners on youtube to be extra careful :)
 

Blady

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People say the gunners are mainly vulnerable from the sides - the shield only provides protection right up front. I haven't tested it myself (and haven't played with halftracks enough), but I've seen enough dead gunners on youtube to be extra careful :)
Me neither, but have used them successfully a few times from covered positions as MG emplacements, but also for an armored spearhead, being able to transport a crew safely through full view of enemy infantry to drop a platoon next to or behind the enemy position (in cover). In the latter case (what you want to use it for) the MG isn't that useful indeed, since the fire support should come from somewhere else.

They are very delicate though, .50 cal can penetrate it if not too far away and anything bigger then that can make your HT and it's precious crew go boom. Had an (un)lucky shot form an opponent the other day, where he managed to get a shot at a mounted platoon sitting in (as it turns out not very good) cover in reserve. One shot penetrated 2(!) halftracks in the same shot killing everyone inside except for one LMG gunner. That's 2 squads of a full platoon dead. Ouch.
 

Drifter Man

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Me neither, but have used them successfully a few times from covered positions as MG emplacements, but also for an armored spearhead, being able to transport a crew safely through full view of enemy infantry to drop a platoon next to or behind the enemy position (in cover). In the latter case (what you want to use it for) the MG isn't that useful indeed, since the fire support should come from somewhere else.

They are very delicate though, .50 cal can penetrate it if not too far away and anything bigger then that can make your HT and it's precious crew go boom. Had an (un)lucky shot form an opponent the other day, where he managed to get a shot at a mounted platoon sitting in (as it turns out not very good) cover in reserve. One shot penetrated 2(!) halftracks in the same shot killing everyone inside except for one LMG gunner. That's 2 squads of a full platoon dead. Ouch.

These double kills hurt... and your opponent saves ammo :)
Yes, halftracks aren't supposed to be launched into enemy fire. They are just more forgiving when a few bullets whiz by. A truck cannot be used this way, the driver will panic and reverse at best.
 

Drifter Man

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Are you aware these are bugged? They fire quite slowly, stop fire missions prematurely, and they are unable to fire the last apprx. 1/4 of their ammo. Just something to keep in mind in your value estimate.

Firing directly, the mortar halftrack stops when it has 24 bombs left. Further fire orders are ignored.

Firing indirectly, it stops its fire mission when it has still many bombs left even though I select "maximum" duration. Giving a new maximum duration mission order, it then fires again, but once more it stops before it has expended the ammunition.

Seems the issue is that (1) the last 24 bombs are considered the personal property of the mortar crew, not the halftrack, and they are unable to fire those bombs from inside the vehicle. (2) someone forgot to type in the right ROF and (3) someone mixed up the amount of rounds fired so that "maximum" duration becomes "medium" duration.

So yes, the SPW 251/2 mortar halftracks are bugged, or at best they don't always do what you expect.
1) A mortar deployed next to the halftrack will spend the ammo bearers' ammo (16), then its own ammo (8), and then all the ammo in the halftrack (66), whether firing directly or an indirect fire mission set to maximum. Good.
2) A mortar deployed inside the halftrack will spend all the ammo in the halftrack when firing directly, but it will not touch its own 8 rounds, nor the 16 rounds of the ammo bearer.
3) Indirect-firing mortar halftracks is the trickiest part - even if set to maximum, they will end the mission well before spending even their own 66 rounds - it is as if maximum were medium.

I plan to use mainly 1) and 3) and I should always be able to retrieve all the ammo from the halftracks by acquiring it, so I should be able to use all 1080 rounds.
 
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