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Paul M. Weir

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A very well written article. I could find nothing amiss, so you can relax! It has a Japanese AAR, something I have not seen before.

The only thing I could add is that Japanese tank doctrine in the '30s was still firmly wedded to the original WW1-ish infantry support role that only the Soviets and later the Germans superseded. The Soviets had their "deep battle" doctrine in the mid '30s until Stalin decided its proponents were a potential personal threat and the Germans evolved their WW1 infiltration Stosstruppen tactics to the operational level. The French dabbled a bit on that line with their DLMs. The paradox is that the Japanese, after the Type 89 I-Go, had fast, reliable and long ranged (diesel) tanks that, though a bit undergunned, were well suited to the deep penetration actions that characterise the '40s Blitzkrieg.

While we may deride the Japanese and Italians for having undergunned tin cans, we do so from the perspective of the late war. Until the Germans met the T-34 and KV-1 the Japanese tanks were about par with the rest of the world. I did think the "crap early Soviet tanks" an unduly harsh comment given we are talking about '38 and '39. Unlike most nations, most Soviet tanks then had proper guns. Only French tanks had better armour, but except for the S-35, sacrificing mobility and range for that advantage.

Well done!
 

Philippe D.

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Very interesting, as usual.

From the in-game point of view, one of the factors that makes early German tanks extremely viable, and French or early Soviet tanks mostly crap, is the presence or absence of a radio. What I am wondering, is - are the Radioless penalties in the game over-harsh, or was having a radio really such a huge advantage? And if so, how come the other nations didn't realize it earlier on? (I mean, the French were out of the war pretty quickly after meeting with the Germans in the field, but the Soviet tanks remain widely radioless for a long time into the war, at least by the rules)
 

jrv

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From the in-game point of view, one of the factors that makes early German tanks extremely viable, and French or early Soviet tanks mostly crap, is the presence or absence of a radio. What I am wondering, is - are the Radioless penalties in the game over-harsh, or was having a radio really such a huge advantage? And if so, how come the other nations didn't realize it earlier on? (I mean, the French were out of the war pretty quickly after meeting with the Germans in the field, but the Soviet tanks remain widely radioless for a long time into the war, at least by the rules)
I think that most armies didn't understand how tanks were going to work out in reality. If you were going to repeat WWI, a radio in every tank isn't that useful. On attack the tanks drive forward, smashing everything in their way. A radio in the platoon commander's tank is good enough. It's only once a highly fluid battle with highly mobile tanks that a radio starts to be really useful. And once you decide a radio in every tank is useful, you can't just pop down to the local auto electronics store and have them install one. You have to build enough and train crew members in their use and maintenance. The Soviets had a lot on their plate in the early war. Just some ideas on why it took a while for them to be added everywhere.

JR
 

Paul M. Weir

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Radio's boost to unit cohesion could by quite big in terms of efficiency.

Due to the difficulty in using signal flags in combat a very common practice was "Do as I do!". A platoon would fire on the target that the platoon leader fired on or simply followed where the PL went. With regard to fire that was not always the worst option. It did mean that a target could get suppressed/killed quicker but at the expense of dealing with multiple targets.

German: A mid war 5 tank platoon would have a PL tank with a transceiver, two sections each with a section leader with a transceiver and a 'wingman' with a receiver for a total of 3 transceivers and 2 receiver. So everyone could receive orders but some could not give back information. As a general statement, every German tank (even reworked captured ones) had a radio of some sort.

British: All light tanks from the Mk VI, all cruisers and all infantry tanks from the Mk II Matilda had radios. Even many carriers had radios. Later in the war they fitted phones on their rear to talk to accompanying infantry.

French: The French eventually started to put radios in their tanks starting with the S-35 and Char B1 bis. However they use Morse rather than voice as they felt the noisy environment inside a tank was not good for voice. In addition Morse usually effectively reaches further than voice for the same power output. The downside is the need for Morse trained operators and the slow data rate compared to voice.

US: Followed the British pattern.

Soviet: Tankettes and light tanks rarely had radios, the one exception being the mid war T-80. The T-26 and BT series had radio versions, those that had were "U" versions, eg T-26U. So for the lights you might had a radio per company or battalion or none, for the T-26/BT you could have a radio per platoon or one per company. The pre-war heavies, the T-35 and T-28 were special in that they were commanded by officers with the rest of the crew being NCOs and had priority for radios. So I would normally make a T-28 a radio equipped vehicle in ASL. Those policies continued with the wartime KV and IS series. The T-34 was like the T-26/BT with from as low as 1 radio per company to 1 per platoon to 1 per tank. By '43 the Soviets had a 2nd generation tank radio in production and was getting both radios and radio equipped tanks from lend-lease. So while there were still many radioless tanks being supplied, '43 is a useful breakpoint for the T-34.

Italians and Japanese: Both eventually tried to put radios in as many tanks as they could but production could not meet demand.

Early war radios were temperamental beasts and very short ranged for voice, usually decently ranged for Morse. German radios were better but others caught up by mid war. Platoon size matters with regard to combat efficiency. The Soviet 3 tank platoon with no radio was more effective per tank than a 5 tank German platoon if it also had no radios. From what I read about Cold War Soviet tactics, they still emphasised the platoon as the unit of fire rather than the individual tank (even though all were radio equipped), IE the 3 tank platoon fired on a single target picked out by the platoon leader rather than each tank picking its own target. Though not the peak of efficiency, it was not as bad as it first appears, speed of suppression vs number of targets serviced.

The Germans, early on, often commented on Soviet tanks bumbling about aimlessly on the battlefield. However it was not just lack of radios but under trained crews, cramped 2 man turrets, commander as gunner (RST) and insufficient and often cloudy optics all contributed to a fatal lack of situational awareness. All those disadvantages did not add up, they multiplied each other. By the end of '43 such reports did not die out but they became less and less frequent. Don't forget, the business buzzword "synergy" cuts both ways, good and bad.
 

von Marwitz

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While we may deride the Japanese and Italians for having undergunned tin cans, we do so from the perspective of the late war.
Still, one could say that the early Italian tanks were not the correct designs for the intended purpose. Unfortunately, I do not have many books about Italian doctrine etc. but I believe that the idea was for Italian forces to be fast and light. They were to come down on their opponents quickly before a solid defense could be established or re-established.

However, if such Italian troops struck solid resistance, they lacked the punch to break it. This in turn slowed down the intended the velocity of the advance and thus "broke" the doctrine.

Of course, this is only a very cursory glance at some Italian doctrinal ideas. Nevertheless, it helped me understand quite well some of the reasons of why the Italian OoBs were deployed as they were.

von Marwitz
 

Paul M. Weir

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Italian armoured doctrine was dominated by their WW1 experience: fighting in hilly or mountainous terrain. For that they felt that only small, light vehicles were suitable. That was reinforced by weak Italian industry. Until somewhat shortly before the '38 Austrian Anschluss, the Italians saw Germany as their most likely foe and Italy wanted to keep Austria independent. When Hitler agreed that pre-WW1 Austrian parts of Italy would remain Italian, then that changed. Combined with the maturation of development vehicles heaver than the L3 series, the change in potential enemies led to the adoption of the M11/39 and M13/40.

While we understand the drawbacks of 2 man turrets with the commander doubling as gunner, at first glance the M13/40 was nearly equivalent to the Pz III E or F. Though faster than the M13/40, the Pz 35(t) and Pz 38(t) had weaker guns and suffered also from brittle rivited armour and the same turret layout.
 

Tuomo

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British: All light tanks from the Mk VI, all cruisers and all infantry tanks from the Mk II Matilda had radios. Even many carriers had radios. Later in the war they fitted phones on their rear to talk to accompanying infantry.
I would think this would be such a benefit, I'm surprised it's not modeled in ASL in some way. Infantry Spotters for AFV Fire?

French: The French eventually started to put radios in their tanks starting with the S-35 and Char B1 bis. However they use Morse rather than voice as they felt the noisy environment inside a tank was not good for voice. In addition Morse usually effectively reaches further than voice for the same power output. The downside is the need for Morse trained operators and the slow data rate compared to voice.
The benefits of springing for the unlimited data plan.

Early war radios were temperamental beasts and very short ranged for voice, usually decently ranged for Morse. German radios were better but others caught up by mid war.
Like Snoogiewoofers, I think the game would be enhanced by some kind of mechanic for AFV Radio malfunction.
 

Tuomo

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From the Japanese AAR in the (very nice!) article:
The three tanks off (sic) our platoon fired about 60 rounds rapidly, but they all skipped on the thick armour of the M4, the ricocheting rounds arching upwards detonating with white-purple flashes – Sgt Kotani shouted, “Irritating!”
I must admire that man's aplomb. I get more pissed off when I roll an 8.
 

Paul M. Weir

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I would think this would be such a benefit, I'm surprised it's not modeled in ASL in some way. Infantry Spotters for AFV Fire?
It usually would be faster, more convenient and safer than banging on the side with a rifle butt and then talking through an open hatch or pistol port, no doubt about that. The question is given the 2-3 min. ASL turn would there be much difference? In addition while infantry could be good at spotting targets they would not necessarily be good for adjusting fire. As it is, anything that is "Unconcealed" to infantry is also to AFV in ASL.
The benefits of springing for the unlimited data plan.
While the term "data rate" might only come from the '70s (anyone remember 300 baud acoustic couplers?), screaming "AT gun left of house, 300 meters" is far faster than "A-T- -g-u-n- -l-e-f-t- -o-f- -h-o-u-s-e- -3-0-0- -m" which might take 15-20 seconds, plenty of time to die! Fine when manoeuvring in the run up to an attack, not so good when in the thick of it.
Like Snoogiewoofers, I think the game would be enhanced by some kind of mechanic for AFV Radio malfunction.
There sort of is, with the French S-35 and Char B1 bis. They have a ML of 9 for non-platoon movement purposes as opposed to their normal ML of 8.
Pre-transistor radios were fragile things with plug in glass thermionic valves. They could become unseated or reseated by vehicular bumps. Anyone remember parents hitting a wonky radio or TV to get it to work? So while radios did go out and require a base repair, often it would have been a few minutes out of action. The more usual problem was bad or intermittent reception. Market-Garden suffered, aside from the idiotic plan, from the airdropped radios not being to contact the relieving forces until they were quite close. The wet boggy terrain attenuated the signals, somewhat like the water in your lasagne absorbing the microwaves in your oven. Hills, buildings and trees could also dramatically shorten the practical range. So while your radio might work perfectly, the building you're skulking behind might block signals.

So an SSR treating radio equipped AFVs as radioless but with a ML of 9/10/11 for movement purposes might be the way to go where radio reception was historically noted to be bad and a problem. No need for "Radio Malf" counters or side notes.
 

Swiftandsure

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The rules could have included AFV radio malfunction.
It exists for infantry radios.
Malfunction could occur at the start of an AFV's MPh, making it a radioless AFV until the radio is repaired.
Combat results, such as a form of shock, could also knock out a radio...
 

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Although tanks spotted for artillery once in awhile, it was a very rare occurrence. Most of the countries did build armored artillery spotting vehicles but the tanks when used were no longer first line weapons in most cases. Radios in WW2 had limited range and phone lines to a forward observer were used up to the end of the war and were still important after the war in Korea for example. IMO ASL could use some remodeled phone rules, like secondary connection points so phones can be moved and put back in use in a different location.
 

Philippe D.

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So an SSR treating radio equipped AFVs as radioless but with a ML of 9/10/11 for movement purposes might be the way to go where radio reception was historically noted to be bad and a problem. No need for "Radio Malf" counters or side notes.
The thing is, the penalty for a missed non-Platoon Movement DR is a harsh one: the AFV just stands there, doing nothing - and it's something you know when you try to move; by then, it's too late to use it for Prep Fire, for instance. Pure sitting duck. Plus, it will wreck your timing, when you'd like your AFVs to be roughly there at such and such a time.

Even with the ML9 DR of some French chars, it's a strong enough penalty that one will try to keep them in platoons. A higher ML-equivalent would make the penalty rarer, but with the same consequences when it hits. ML9 is one chance in 6 of failure; ML10 would be 1 in 12 - considering the possible consequences, not something you want to take too often.

I'm not saying these penalties are too harsh or whatever - I have no idea what the real effect of no radio, or very unreliable radios, was in combat situations. But I think the game mechanisms make radioless AFVs a huge liability; it significantly changes the way I will play with them. So I am note sure extending the situations where this mechanism is used is the way to go.
 

Tuomo

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The question is given the 2-3 min. ASL turn would there be much difference? In addition while infantry could be good at spotting targets they would not necessarily be good for adjusting fire.
So perhaps a 1-pip reduction to the Case K (if IIRC) TH mod for firing at a concealed target, if there's a designated Infantry Spotter? Or a similar reduction to the Case A modifier for firing outside of the vehicle's TCA (to a minimum of 1 per hexspine, which wouldn't help a vehicle in the open but would help a vehicle in woods or a building...) Or just a similar reduction when acquiring a new target, for the same reasons (but in reverse) that bypass vehicles get a +1 TH DRM when doing so?

IDK. With some chrome, you have to admit that, yeah, the system didn't miss much without it. Here, it sure seems like an obvious benefit is going unmodeled. The system has rules for Gyros, Schuerzen, etc, and this one doesn't seem too far out there.

Why kvetch about a measly +1 TH DRM? Well actually, I wish it were larger or more obvious somehow. Because if there's a large benefit to having an infantry spotter on the phone with the tank, then you've increased the benefit to using combined arms the way they were used in reality. Isn't that a good thing (if you can do it without 2 pages of rules)?

While the term "data rate" might only come from the '70s (anyone remember 300 baud acoustic couplers?), screaming "AT gun left of house, 300 meters" is far faster than "A-T- -g-u-n- -l-e-f-t- -o-f- -h-o-u-s-e- -3-0-0- -m" which might take 15-20 seconds, plenty of time to die! Fine when manoeuvring in the run up to an attack, not so good when in the thick of it.
I wonder if tank commanders who had been together for a while had worked out some kind of shorthand. Might be a good use for Armor Leaders, to represent this kind of thing.

The wet boggy terrain attenuated the signals, somewhat like the water in your lasagne absorbing the microwaves in your oven. Hills, buildings and trees could also dramatically shorten the practical range. So while your radio might work perfectly, the building you're skulking behind might block signals.
So we need to have Radio Blind Hexes now too? C'MON PAUL, QUIT PUSHING THE ENVELOPE.

No need for "Radio Malf" counters or side notes.
Sniff. Killjoy.
 

Tuomo

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The thing is, the penalty for a missed non-Platoon Movement DR is a harsh one: the AFV just stands there, doing nothing - and it's something you know when you try to move; by then, it's too late to use it for Prep Fire, for instance. Pure sitting duck. Plus, it will wreck your timing, when you'd like your AFVs to be roughly there at such and such a time.

Even with the ML9 DR of some French chars, it's a strong enough penalty that one will try to keep them in platoons. A higher ML-equivalent would make the penalty rarer, but with the same consequences when it hits. ML9 is one chance in 6 of failure; ML10 would be 1 in 12 - considering the possible consequences, not something you want to take too often.

I'm not saying these penalties are too harsh or whatever - I have no idea what the real effect of no radio, or very unreliable radios, was in combat situations. But I think the game mechanisms make radioless AFVs a huge liability; it significantly changes the way I will play with them. So I am note sure extending the situations where this mechanism is used is the way to go.
I wonder if an interesting penalty would be to simply reduce the MP of that vehicle to 1/4 of its printed value, for that turn only. You're allowing the tank commander to have a LITTLE initiative, a little sense to not just sit there and be completely frozen, but you've limited its tactical effectiveness significantly without taking it completely out of the game.

This is such a good idea, I'm sure it'll be added to the Gor-Gor Heretical Variant List.
 

Paul M. Weir

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So we need to have Radio Blind Hexes now too? C'MON PAUL, QUIT PUSHING THE ENVELOPE.
NO! I was not even contemplating suggesting that. Radios can be funny things, move a foot or two or turn and reception can die. You could be behind a building and get nada, move a short distance whilst still apparently in the building's 'radio shadow' and now it blows your ears off. Remember your science Double Slit light experiment? I was more thinking along the lines of a historical situation where you read that radio comms was quite spotty and inhibiting quality command and control. In such a scenario you might make all vehicles R11 for mildly spotty reception or R10 for bad reception. The sort of action I have in mind would be something like fighting in an Ardennes valley or mountainous parts of Yugoslavia. The R10 or R11 would apply regardless of (adjacent) terrain.

Limiting movement to some fraction of the MP upon failure of the Radio/Movement TC rather than been totally frozen sound like a better idea. Unfortunately frozen is is what's in the RB and is unlikely to change. I tend to suggest changes that utilise existing mechanisms as the basis for rules tweaks/SSRs, with as little particularly new as possible.
 

Bob Walters

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I wonder if an interesting penalty would be to simply reduce the MP of that vehicle to 1/4 of its printed value, for that turn only. You're allowing the tank commander to have a LITTLE initiative, a little sense to not just sit there and be completely frozen, but you've limited its tactical effectiveness significantly without taking it completely out of the game.

This is such a good idea, I'm sure it'll be added to the Gor-Gor Heretical Variant List.
I think that is a much better way of simulating the real-life effect.
 
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