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Modeling Artillery

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  • Modeling Artillery

    As many of you may recall, I'm designing a platoon level game (How to Make War). One of my stated goals is to do justice to combined arms warfare. Most modern tactical games tend to focus on tanks and other vehicles and treat other arms as an appendage. The game system is a loose derivitive of SPI's MechWar, similar to PanzerLeader/PanzerBlitz with platoon sized units.

    In this thread I want to explore the artillery branch, including also mortars and direct fire area weapons (e.g. tank HE fire).

    To begin with, what are the effects of artillery fire?

    The most obvious effect is casualties. If you target an enemy infantry platoon there is a chance of reducing its strength (modeled as squad steps). Against enemy artillery or other soft targets such as trucks or enemy artillery there is a chance of destroying the target. There is even a slight chance of destroying, or at least rendering combat inoperative, a hard target such as a tank. (Only considering HE fire here, not copperhead, mines and such.)

    But there are other effects too that are more difficult to model.

    Even if an infantry platoon is not reduced in strength, there is a chance that it may be suppressed or otherwise demoralized. In the case of infantry occupying a defensive position, e.g. foxholes, the suppressed platoon would be less able, or unable, to effectively perform operations such as firing its own weapons.

    But how should we model artillery fire against advancing infantry? If suppression means that the infantry "goes to ground" then it becomes trapped in the artillery barrage. However, I have read a number of accounts where artillery fire had the effect of driving back infantry. In other words, the infantry did not go to ground but, instead, ran back to their own lines.

    What are your thoughts on modeling the effects of artillery?

  • #2
    I actually modelled most of that years ago. Seems the stuff is no longer on the computer. But, here's the basics:

    There are two major effects from artillery: Blast and fragmentation. Against things like targets in bunkers, trenches, etc., (ie "dug in") blast is what has the suppression effect but the rounds have to land close. Fragmentation doesn't do much unless the shell actually hits the target (unlikely).
    For infantry or towed weapons in the open, fragmentation is the mechanism. The effect is roughly the same for any shell of about 3" or greater but the distance over which it can do damage increases with caliber because the larger fragments tend to grow in both weight and number as it goes up.
    Artillery will almost always cause such units to become pinned to the ground because unless the soldiers are stupid, they will lie flat and "get small." If they don't, artillery will tear them apart.

    Morale is a different problem entirely. There are two different aspects: Short and long term. That's a whole subject in itself.

    Oh, artillery can devastate tanks and armor too. A 105mm or bigger gun produces fragments that will penetrate as much as 25 or 30mm of armor if the round hits close to the vehicle. It will destroy tracks, running gear, radio antennas, and other parts of the tank rendering it reduced in ability or disabled. Direct hits by larger artillery rounds can easily disable or destroy a tank too. It is far more dangerous to tanks than many games make it out to be.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by T. A. Gardner View Post
      There are two major effects from artillery: Blast and fragmentation. Against things like targets in bunkers, trenches, etc., (ie "dug in") blast is what has the suppression effect but the rounds have to land close. Fragmentation doesn't do much unless the shell actually hits the target (unlikely).
      Interesting. As I recall from my reading, there is some potential for casualties in the initial burst (e.g. catching infantry out of cover) but after the first few minutes casualties drop off. You are suggesting, I think, that they essentialy go to zero, correct? Is it worth modeling direct hits? Why then did the Russins have hours long preperatory barrages?

      For infantry or towed weapons in the open, fragmentation is the mechanism. The effect is roughly the same for any shell of about 3" or greater but the distance over which it can do damage increases with caliber because the larger fragments tend to grow in both weight and number as it goes up.
      This is easy to model given the data I've seen so let's set it aside.

      Artillery will almost always cause such units to become pinned to the ground because unless the soldiers are stupid, they will lie flat and "get small." If they don't, artillery will tear them apart.
      This is how the game currently models effects and it is nicely consistent with the effects on dug in troops. The problems are that 1) it seems too easy to stop an assault cold and 2) it doesn't account for troops withdrawing under artillery fire. (Of course, a player will always push his units forward if they are mobile.) I recall WWI film scenes with troops going through no-man's land through an artillery barrage.

      Morale is a different problem entirely. There are two different aspects: Short and long term. That's a whole subject in itself.
      The game currently models morale in the case of company casualties. As casualties accumulate, the company becomes more brittle and eventually will not move forward or fire until rallied. But I'm wondering if I need to introduce morale into artillery effects to decide if, in an assault, a unit goes to ground, withdraws, or persevers through the assault or, in the defense, whether the unit hides in its cover, withdraws, or stands fast and returns fire against assaulting targets.

      Oh, artillery can devastate tanks and armor too. A 105mm or bigger gun produces fragments that will penetrate as much as 25 or 30mm of armor if the round hits close to the vehicle. It will destroy tracks, running gear, radio antennas, and other parts of the tank rendering it reduced in ability or disabled. Direct hits by larger artillery rounds can easily disable or destroy a tank too. It is far more dangerous to tanks than many games make it out to be.
      Good to know. I'd seen the stripping and immobilizing effect but not the penetration. Any idea where to find data for this? This also helps to solve another problem: the chalenge of modeling counterbattery fire against self-propelled artillery with armor protection (e.g. the M109 howitzer) which in the current model is essentially invulnerable to counterbattery.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by ipser View Post
        Interesting. As I recall from my reading, there is some potential for casualties in the initial burst (e.g. catching infantry out of cover) but after the first few minutes casualties drop off. You are suggesting, I think, that they essentialy go to zero, correct? Is it worth modeling direct hits? Why then did the Russins have hours long preperatory barrages?
        Because this has to do with the long term effects of morale.

        This is how the game currently models effects and it is nicely consistent with the effects on dug in troops. The problems are that 1) it seems too easy to stop an assault cold and 2) it doesn't account for troops withdrawing under artillery fire. (Of course, a player will always push his units forward if they are mobile.) I recall WWI film scenes with troops going through no-man's land through an artillery barrage.
        Depends on the long and short terms effects of morale, but yes, dug in troops who are in reasonably good morale will stop an assault cold unless it can overwhelm them.

        The game currently models morale in the case of company casualties. As casualties accumulate, the company becomes more brittle and eventually will not move forward or fire until rallied. But I'm wondering if I need to introduce morale into artillery effects to decide if, in an assault, a unit goes to ground, withdraws, or persevers through the assault or, in the defense, whether the unit hides in its cover, withdraws, or stands fast and returns fire against assaulting targets.
        Casualties are not a primary driver of morale.

        know. I'd seen the stripping and immobilizing effect but not the penetration. Any idea where to find data for this? This also helps to solve another problem: the chalenge of modeling counterbattery fire against self-propelled artillery with armor protection (e.g. the M109 howitzer) which in the current model is essentially invulnerable to counterbattery.
        Let's start with morale.

        Long term effects are fairly easily modelled. This has to do with the troops simply becoming numb, worn out, jaded, to the effects of combat. The longer they're in the field, front lines, etc., under fire, or threat of fire, the more their morale declines. The simplest model based on historical data is this:

        Most people in happiness studies are about a 7 on a 0 to 10 scale. For every 14 days of combat someone is in that level of happiness goes down 1. If the combat is particularly intense, or the conditions are poor-- like rain, cold, mud, etc.-- where the troops are miserable just being there, then this rate doubles to triples. That is morale goes down at a rate of 7 to 3 or 4 days.
        The troops can be restored usually to within one or two levels of where they were before entering combat (that is they were a 7 now they're a 6 or 5) by taking them out of the line and giving them some time to rest, usually about a week.
        When their long term morale reaches about 3 or 4 they're pretty much useless. At zero, they stop fighting. They desert, commit suicide, or otherwise simply will not fight any more.

        Now, short term effects are due to the immediate circumstances a unit finds itself in. Training, experience, and the long term level of morale determine the starting point.

        What effects short term morale are things like:

        Surprise: This is a big one. The more the unit is surprised by enemy action, the greater the effect on their morale. Getting hit hard from an unseen enemy from an unexpected direction can crumble morale.

        Loss of leadership. Seeing leaders go down, or simply not knowing where they are can ruin morale.

        Unit cohesion. The men don't know where the rest of their unit is. This could be as simple as being pinned and unable to see anyone else from your unit. Loss of contact with your unit is a serious problem.

        Seeing others fleeing. You see other men running away. You might assume a retreat or withdrawal was ordered, so you run too.

        Immediate casualties. It isn't that you get wounded and killed in your unit. It's that they happen all at once. Serious immediate casualties, like several men in your squad go down to a machinegun, effects morale more than one guy killed, then another wounded, and so on over say, half an hour. You adjust and accept that happening.

        So, for example, a unit comes under light mortar fire and drops to the ground for cover. They are in tall grass let's say. Now nobody can see anybody else. The mortar bombs are drowning out any shouted orders by the leader. Confusion sets in and the unit won't get up and move because nobody knows what to do other than lie there and try not to get killed.

        That's the brief version.

        The idea for a game like yours is that small amounts of firepower, small arms or artillery, will generally stop an infantry unit in its tracks. It takes immense effort to keep the troops moving forward when they're under even light fire. The best trained soldiers might do it on their own, but the average draftee won't unless he's being prodded some.

        It takes a lot of firepower to create lots of casualties, but that usually won't cause a morale collapse on its own. Morale collapses out of confusion, surprise, fear, and what others are doing around you not that your buddy took a hit. That you can handle because you knew going in it was a possibility.

        As for self-propelled artillery... Most of it when in battery has a good portion of the crew outside the vehicle humping powder and shells. The vehicle carries few on-board rounds so they are on another vehicle near the gun. Some may have an arrangement to protect the crew between the two, but most don't.
        The phone wire between the guns and the fire control vehicle(s) are also vulnerable. These get taken out, the guns can't fire as they're not getting the data and orders to do so.

        Also, in infantry units firepower falls off as an inverse square function. That is you have to sustain a good number of losses before the firepower really falls off because the norm is that the most important weapons will continue to function being taken over by the remaining troops if they can. For example, in a WW 2 German squad so long as the machinegun is manned effectively the squad has about 80 to 90% of its firepower. That means it could lose all but 2 or 3 men and still function at nearly full capacity (theoretically). Loss of the machinegun, be it with most of the squad still effective, or it being one of the last survivors, pretty much zeros out the firepower.

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        • #5
          I would try talking to a guy named Shades at SEOWHQ if you have teamspeak. I don't know how friendly they are over there but I used to hang out with them some.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by ipser View Post
            ..how should we model artillery fire against advancing infantry? If suppression means that the infantry "goes to ground" then it becomes trapped in the artillery barrage. However, I have read a number of accounts where artillery fire had the effect of driving back infantry. In other words, the infantry did not go to ground but, instead, ran back to their own lines.
            What are your thoughts on modeling the effects of artillery?
            Artillery will stop an infantry on foot attack in its tracks, making the infantry dive for the nearest cover, but if there is no cover they'll probably withdraw back to their own lines.
            It all depends on the scenario of course, for example if the infantry are in halftracks they'll simply push forward very fast through the barrage zone, getting decent protection from shrapnel by the vehicles armour.
            And remember, artillery takes whole minutes or more to lift its barrage onto new coordinates, so if the attacking force keep moving it'll never be able to catch them..

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            • #7
              Just a little point or two. I read long ago that the British arranged an artillery firepower demonstration for interested parties before the Boar War. So they put 20 sheep on a hill and proceeded to bang away. Afterwards they went to count the sheep and found 21!

              Also did not see this mentioned. For a given caliber of shell a mortar bomb will have more HE than a gun or howitzer shell will. This is because the mortar bomb is not fired from a rifled barrel so the rotation stresses are not there. Also mortar's tend to fire at much lower velocities. So the bomb walls can be made thinner.

              Based on my reading what artillery tends to do to a non armored attacking force is drive them to the ground. That pins them in place. Then other direct fire weapons can go to work.

              Comment


              • #8
                The British are so smart; I once saw an Artillery demonstration that used US Army soldiers. I guess there was a bunker that they slipped into on the opposite slope of the hill once the forward side started taking rounds. I'd like to see the risk assessment for that exercise.

                Originally posted by zaarin7 View Post
                Just a little point or two. I read long ago that the British arranged an artillery firepower demonstration for interested parties before the Boar War. So they put 20 sheep on a hill and proceeded to bang away. Afterwards they went to count the sheep and found 21!

                Also did not see this mentioned. For a given caliber of shell a mortar bomb will have more HE than a gun or howitzer shell will. This is because the mortar bomb is not fired from a rifled barrel so the rotation stresses are not there. Also mortar's tend to fire at much lower velocities. So the bomb walls can be made thinner.

                Based on my reading what artillery tends to do to a non armored attacking force is drive them to the ground. That pins them in place. Then other direct fire weapons can go to work.
                My worst jump story:
                My 13th jump was on the 13th day of the month, aircraft number 013.
                As recorded on my DA Form 1307 Individual Jump Log.
                No lie.

                ~
                "Everything looks all right. Have a good jump, eh."
                -2 Commando Jumpmaster

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by zaarin7 View Post
                  Just a little point or two. I read long ago that the British arranged an artillery firepower demonstration for interested parties before the Boar War. So they put 20 sheep on a hill and proceeded to bang away. Afterwards they went to count the sheep and found 21!

                  Also did not see this mentioned. For a given caliber of shell a mortar bomb will have more HE than a gun or howitzer shell will. This is because the mortar bomb is not fired from a rifled barrel so the rotation stresses are not there. Also mortar's tend to fire at much lower velocities. So the bomb walls can be made thinner.

                  Based on my reading what artillery tends to do to a non armored attacking force is drive them to the ground. That pins them in place. Then other direct fire weapons can go to work.
                  But, under almost all circumstances, it's the fragmentation that does the real damage. The danger from shrapnel / shell fragments falls off as a square function whereas blast falls off as a cube function. What you want is an explosive that is higher quality with a higher initial velocity and a shell made out of stronger steel so it takes more force to rip it apart.

                  As some examples, the Japanese used picric acid for the most part in their shells and made them of indifferent quality steel. This WW 1 era explosive combined with a poor quality steel made their rounds less effective for their size and filler.

                  The US used higher quality steel in their rounds and usually filled them with TNT or Amatol. This increased the blast and fragmentation considerably making them more effective for their size.

                  The Germans as the war went on got crappier and crappier shells for their artillery due to not only poor materials, but often due to using unmotivated or even vengeful workers who would do indifferent work or sabotage the shells in various ways.

                  The angle of fall of the round and its striking velocity also matter. Against dug in targets higher is better to achieve destruction of the ground (cratering). Against targets in the open this works against the shell as it buries and this helps to absorb the blast and fragmentation.
                  Against structures, more blast effect is good, as it is contained in the building and will cause more structural damage to it.

                  Mortar bombs have the advantage of being subsonic so the target usually doesn't hear the incoming rounds allowing a better chance of surprise and the bombs won't bury much. Opposing that, it makes them far less effective against entrenched troops and "hard" targets.

                  The more oblique the round strikes, the more the fragment pattern "butterflies." That is, most of the fragments scatter to the sides of the shell rather than ahead and behind it.

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                  • #10
                    After thinking through the answers here and prior and the game design problems I’ve been trying to solve, I’ve decided to make the following changes:

                    1) Currently companies are only required to conduct a morale check when a platoon experiences an adverse result (either a loss or suppression). Instead, I will add a morale check result for near adverse results so that units under fire might become hesitant to move and/or fire.

                    2) Currently armored artillery is almost immune to counter battery fire. Instead, it will be required that even armored artillery must be unsuppressed to fire, like towed artillery (reflecting that armored artillery cannot be fired buttoned up like a tank.

                    3) Currently artillery pose little risk to armored units. Instead, it will become easier to inflict losses on armored units with artillery fire, especially heavier guns.

                    4) The difference in effects of artillery upon exposed leg vs. suppressed (gone to ground) will be increased to reflect that suppressed units are rationally seeking cover from fire.

                    5) Allow a platoon to attempt observe only one other platoon instead of automatically observing an unlimited number of platoons.

                    Your thoughts?

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by ipser View Post
                      After thinking through the answers here and prior and the game design problems I’ve been trying to solve, I’ve decided to make the following changes:

                      1) Currently companies are only required to conduct a morale check when a platoon experiences an adverse result (either a loss or suppression). Instead, I will add a morale check result for near adverse results so that units under fire might become hesitant to move and/or fire.

                      I'd agree with this. They might not break, but will hesitate.

                      2) Currently armored artillery is almost immune to counter battery fire. Instead, it will be required that even armored artillery must be unsuppressed to fire, like towed artillery (reflecting that armored artillery cannot be fired buttoned up like a tank.

                      I might alter this slightly, if your game system allows. Armored Artillery could be able to fire when taking some level of fire, but will definitely fire at a reduced rate and with reduced accuracy, maybe with more crew fatigue.

                      3) Currently artillery pose little risk to armored units. Instead, it will become easier to inflict losses on armored units with artillery fire, especially heavier guns.

                      Yup. I'd say that 120mm mortars on up could affect light armor, and 155s could definitely affect even armored units, with mobility kills if not outright killing tanks.


                      4) The difference in effects of artillery upon exposed leg vs. suppressed (gone to ground) will be increased to reflect that suppressed units are rationally seeking cover from fire.

                      Sounds Reasonable


                      5) Allow a platoon to attempt observe only one other platoon instead of automatically observing an unlimited number of platoons.

                      Your thoughts?
                      Maybe more than one. Platoon level, maybe 1 observation per Officer/Staff NCO/Forward Observer attachment? Showing that the Platoon Sergeant and Platoon Leader can both observe separately, and any attached FO could observe on their own (with greater precision than infantry observers).
                      Tacitos, Satrap of Kyrene

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by TacCovert4 View Post
                        Maybe more than one. Platoon level, maybe 1 observation per Officer/Staff NCO/Forward Observer attachment? Showing that the Platoon Sergeant and Platoon Leader can both observe separately, and any attached FO could observe on their own (with greater precision than infantry observers).
                        Is one enemy unit per friendly platoon too limited? I do have seperate units for FO and commanders but don't break down a platoon otherwise. Obviously a platoon is a lot of men who could be looking at more than one enemy platoon but I wanted to limit the exposure of enemy to observation by a single platoon.

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                        • #13
                          I am also thinking about getting rid of "suppression" as a seperate fire result and relying on "shaken" moral state (in which units can fire but not move) instead. The main difference is that suppression is platoon based and was automatically lifted after a turn whereas shaken is company based requires a commander to rally.

                          In fact, I could change morale to apply first to platoons instead of companies. (And then percolating up the org chart as is currently the case).
                          Last edited by ipser; 03 May 18, 12:08.

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