Soviet mortar bombardment - why not?

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Arlequín
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Re: Soviet mortar bombardment - why not?

Post by Arlequín »

Captain W Martin wrote: Should the size of the barrage area be increased or just dropped from the list for you?
A different discussion for another thread I think, but a potentially worthwhile one.

For the purposes of this thread however, if the Soviets have company mortar sections, which may be combined with other similar sections, then you potentially have a 'massed battery' but one which is restricted to operating within the confines of that weapon's range (800m?); i.e. that same company or battalion.

With the potential to lay down a barrage provided by two, four, or six mortars, but which cannot be practically used for 'massed fire' beyond its parent formation, that would seem to make a nonsense of not allowing the Soviets mortar barrages.

JimLeCat
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Re: Soviet mortar bombardment - why not?

Post by JimLeCat »

The mortar barrage rules are one of those things which would (i) be hugely overpowered if done properly and (ii) wouldn't appear on a CoC table unless the FOO was suicidal or really desperate. Any friendly troops on the table would be seriously at risk from medium mortars or larger - the barrage should really take a core shape depending on the intended targeting and dispersion, with zones of risk radiating out from that. Trying to target a barrage anywhere on the table would put all deployed troops at risk.

It reminds me of a GDW (I think) WW3 game from the 80s which had a rule for the use of tactical nukes - pour lighter fluid over the table and apply a flame!

Despite all that, we would feel shortchanged without them, so Rich has included a watered down version that represents the kind of effect they would have without ending the game.

Light mortars are also actually underpowered, in that the risk of casualties from a single shell should be small, but present, for all individual troops within 100 yards or so (the principal risk is from fragmentation, the blast being comparatively small). A single light mortar can quickly put a number of shells down in an area, the principal limitation being ammunition supply.

Rifle grenades can also drop a large number of rounds, but less accurately, and likely with an even more restricted ammo supply. They also have a small blast even compared to regular grenades, so the chances of troops being injured by them drop off faster with distance, but a few fragments will still be dangerous out to some distance.

All-in-all, it's a very messy subject and one which can easily turn into a rabbit hole. The real question is, are the rules close enough to reality, and, if you think not, is there a simple way to tweak things?

Cheers,
Jim

ocollens
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Re: Soviet mortar bombardment - why not?

Post by ocollens »

Arlequin wrote: Seriously, give the Soviets in-game mortar barrages and make the fantasy universal.

Personally I find off-table mortar barrages tend to ruin CoC games and we only tend to pick them when one side side is attacking a 'dug-in' enemy. This is is more a matter of gameplay than realism but when you take the amount of battalion level mortar support (battalion medium mortar assets being the determinant of the size of the barrage) things do get a bit silly as the war goes on.

However depriving the Soviets of something because they have too much of it would be a strange reversal. A can of worms here I think.

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Arlequín
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Re: Soviet mortar bombardment - why not?

Post by Arlequín »

I think it can only come down to two options; leave things as they are, or do away with mortar barrages. As many people are seemingly happy with them, those who aren't can just come to agreements not to use those rules, or to spice up the Pre-Game Barrage in some way - as Jim says, no observer is going to call down fire within the distances involved in a normal game.

As for the Soviets, if their manuals say 'this is how we do it' and the U.S. Army are saying 'this is how they do it' and the two match up, then it would seem likely that was what they did. A mortar barrage is quite an effective support choice for its level and unless there is convincing evidence to the contrary, I don't see why the Soviets should be denied it.

At least one German artillery expert seems to have found Russian mortars effective within the greater scheme of things: http://www.allworldwars.com/Tactics-and ... chert.html

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Re: Soviet mortar bombardment - why not?

Post by JimLeCat »

That link is very interesting, and does include mention of mortars, but is concerned with divisional actions. It also supports the centralised control view, at least when the Soviets are on the defensive.
In summing up the following may be said with respect to the tactics and fire control of the Russian artillery in a defense on a broad front:

1) The division artillery commander*- of a Russian infantry division directs the fire of all heavy weapons. In particular, he controls time, place, and rate of fire of the harassing fire of mortars and of the artillery — in exceptional cases also of the heavy machine guns — placed on the enemy's lines and at quarters, roads, and supply installations in his rear area. He is responsible for fire preparation and fire support in all operations. He directs the fire against enemy assembly areas and against preparations for attack. He controls the barrage fire of all heavy weapons in front of the Russian main line of resistance.

[* - Special staff Arty officer and Artillery commander at Div Hq.]

2) The mortar battalions are always placed under his command, the mortar units of the infantry, the regimental batteries (infantry gun
howitzers), and some of the antitank guns are at least at his disposal as far as fire control is concerned. Whether these latter units are placed completely under his command has never been clearly established.
The sections on Soviet fire supporting offensives tends to support the same view, but isn't clear-cut.

Cheers,
Jim

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Re: Soviet mortar bombardment - why not?

Post by Arlequín »

Sure you have to pick out the small mentions of mortars in that. There are very few treatises on 'infantry' mortars in isolation and indeed the focus was on artillery, although the addition of mortars in some but not all cases, supports the 'On The Way' article given earlier. Unless they gave the mortar men the day off, they were firing in support of their own units when not integrated into massed fire plans.

The comments about effective well-camouflaged and hard to hit OPs, calls for fire and the mention of increasing amounts of radios in use, does sort of dispel the myth of a monolithic inflexible artillery entity. That the artillery could hit reserve points and headquarters, does tend to support that there was backwards communication with firing units when these targets were identified in an advance. To be honest I found the 'On The Way' piece more interesting and informative, but added that as another capable voice commentating on Soviet practices.

Personally I'm still absorbing the concept that the regimental mortar company commander could control and co-ordinate the fire plans of his 120mm, the three battalion 82mm units and the nine company 50mm units, as a provisional mortar battalion and then release these units back to the control of their respective HQs when he's done with them; that's pretty smart.

... and yes, we often miss the use of machine gun units as 'artillery' across armies in general. They all spent a lot of time teaching machine gun units to fire indirectly.

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Seret
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Re: Soviet mortar bombardment - why not?

Post by Seret »

Most armies treat mortars and SFMGs as two different tools from the same box. They're an infantry unit's organic fire support, they would both be a key part of the fire plan for any operation.

That's actually an aspect of infantry operations at this scale that I think isn't well represented in CoC. We shouldn't have so many Vickers guns and tripod MG42s on table. They should be off table firing onto preplanned targets. IIRC you get a bit of this in the SCW and WW1, but it should be in the core WW2 rules, too.

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Re: Soviet mortar bombardment - why not?

Post by Arlequín »

I don't think it's true of any game to be honest; wargamers expect glam over reality. I think it would be rules suicide to suggest that the only visible support your platoon is likely to get is another platoon, unless your prayers are answered and a tank or two shows up.

Taking it a step further, if one rule set offers artillery, aircraft, machine guns, mortars, naval gunfire and even gliders or paratroops landing, all on-table, most people might probably opt for that over 'imaginary friends' firing mortars and machine guns somewhere off in the distance, however realistic that might actually be.

Jim commented earlier that as a whole we would feel shortchanged merely by not having access to mortar barrages, even at the cost of their being heavily watered-down and I think he's quite right. I've often tussled with how to make them work, instead of just accepting that they don't and shouldn't.

At least MGs were often parcelled out to low-level units in some armies, even in the SCW as I discovered recently, so their presence on-table is somewhat warranted, even if their collective indirect fire aspect is ignored. Still, calling your mortar barrage a machine gun barrage could do the trick, as would calling your pre-game artillery barrage a mortar barrage too.

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Re: Soviet mortar bombardment - why not?

Post by JimLeCat »

Many armies had MMGs integral to an infantry company, which could be parcelled out as platoon close support. Also, from what I've read, WW2 armies didn't seem to use massed MMGs for the indirect barrage fire in common use (at least in the British and Canadian armies) in the latter part of WW1. They seem to have preferred mortars for that role.

Still, specialist MMG crews at least were still trained in these techniques and used them, but apparently not in larger groups. TW&T actually has rules for beaten lanes or areas from off-table MMGs.

Cheers,
Jim

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Re: Soviet mortar bombardment - why not?

Post by JimLeCat »

As to the Soviet practices, I was just commenting that that link referred to actions at too high a level to determine anything for CoC, but it certainly indicated that the Soviet use of artillery, including mortars, was highly proficient at delivering results in both defence and attack. It just doesn't tell you enough about *how* they did it, especially at the level we're interested in.

Cheers,
Jim

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