Up to this point the tutorial has dealt with the mechanics of artillery fire in the game. These are relatively straightforward once
you know the available fire support elements and their support levels. Many of the questions we have received point out
contradictions in the rules that deal more with the setup of the scenario than the mechanics. For example, the rule
on p.39 that limits battalion missions to a single battery conflicts with the description of battery fire on P.37 which implies
that individual batteries within a battalion can fire separate missions. Another question arises in the orders of
battle where a battalion has the option of operating as independent batteries, each of which could theoretically call for
general support, while the battalion as a whole gets one battery of GS artillery. Is is possible that independent batteries
get more GS missions than the battalion?
When apparent contradictions exist, which rule is correct? The answer is "They all could be"
on the national doctrine and specific situation. The discrepancies arose because when we wrote a particular
rule, we were thinking of a particular practice followed by a specific nation and didn't always resolve contradictions
between them. However, while this may sound like the designers of the game are abdicating responsibility, we are
not going to leave you in the dark. The rest of the tutorial will describe how to use the rules,
orders-of-battle, and National Doctrine to design coherent and non-conflicting artillery support for your scenario.
Scenario Artillery Setup
The scenario artillery should define:
- The number of batteries and battalions that are available.
- The support level for each independent Fire Support Element or section.
- If not immediately obvious, the observers who can call each element.
- Pre-plotted fire plans, including any pre-registration.
- Any special rules, such as a limitation on the number of smoke rounds or fire missions that can be called.
- Any changes to the general rules, such as allowing general support elements or individual batteries in a battalion
to fire independent missions.
The key idea here is that when a conflict exists between the scenario rule or order of battle and the rulebook,
the scenario takes precedence.
Some ideas for scenario rules
- Ammunition restrictions can be modeled either by counting fire missions or changing the rolls needed for success
on the call-for-fire table.
- Feel free to change the rolls needed for success to simulate communications difficulties or especially good
- You can limit the control of fire support elements to specific observers to simulate command/control restrictions
- You can allocate smoke rounds either by the mission or the template.
- For referreed games, the umpire can act as a brake on unrealistic behavior. Wargamers being what they are,
they will want to use all of their artillery every turn, even if the target would not warrant it. So when the
the player attempts to call down a corps-level Time-on-Target on a horse-drawn wagon, feel free to act as the voice of reality
and limit it to a single battery. In our Optional Rules we give
some ways of curbing unrealistic behavior within the game system.
Command, Control, and Communications
When we describe the national doctrines, we will refer to three critical ideas that have a great effect on
the flexibility and use of artillery.
(the terms below are distilled from the excellent Royal Artillery
- Command - the allocation of resources.
- Control - the allocation of firepower.
- Communications - The methods used for coordinating fire
The level of command defines how easy it is to coordinate between different organizations. A high level of
command indicates that resources can be shared without difficulty. You don't need to reassign an off-board element
to allow its use by someone else.
Control defines who can call for artillery support. Most nations limited their calls-for-fire to officers and
designated forward observers. The lower the level of control, the more flexible the artillery.
At the beginning of the war, most nations relied on ground communication lines. These were susceptible to interruption
when the wires were cut. Also, they restricted communications to those places where wire had been strung. Although
wire was still used throughout the war, especially in static positions, radio assumed more importance. The radio "net"
was a prime reason for the flexibility of the U.S. and British systems.
A little history-World War I legacies
To understand World War II artillery doctrine it is helpful to look at its origin.
At the beginning of the 20th century, artillery
doctrine was still in its infancy, and had not advanced very far from its Napoleonic, ACW, and Franco-Prussian origins. The
battery commander chose his own targets, often using direct fire at targets that could be seen from the gun
positions. The basic ammunition was the shrapnel shell, designed to decimate troops in
the open. The battery commander was supposed to dash forward, smother his target with direct fire shrapnel shells, and
watch the enemy melt away. One of the first clashes that this had with reality occurred in the Boer War, where the British found
that their opponents were not kind (stupid?) enough to fight from positions in the open. Instead, they dug in and fought
from hidden positions. Shrapnel had very little effect on dug-in troops, and the British found their gunners being picked
off by hidden riflemen. Indirect fire quickly became the name of the game, but communications had yet to be
developed to allow it to be controlled effectively. The basic method was to use ranging shots, bracketing the target until
fire could be brought down on top of them. The battery commander or observer would often communicate corrections
to fire back to hidden batteries. Of course by the time that fire was landing accurately on the prospective target,
it often had moved away or gone underground.
At the beginning of World War I, when trench warfare first took over the battlefield, artillery started to be used in
massive barrages that were designed to obliterate the enemy positions by sheer weight of fire. In practice this rarely
happened. Not only were the shrapnel shells (which comprised much of the ammunition stocks), relatively ineffective against
trenches, but the week-long barrages that preceded the infantry assaults often did not have their desired effect. Enough
front-line positions survived to allow reserves to be brought up to stop the attacks. Also, after the initial shock
of the barrage wore off, troops in dug-outs found that they had survived and could continue to function.
The British developed many techniques for controlling artillery such as the "creeping" barrage, the "box
barrage" and the idea of concentration of fire rather than concentration of guns.
Georg Bruchmüller-a modern artillery theorist
On the other side of the trenches, Georg Bruchmüller was a World War I German Colonel whose theories
refined the techniques used by both sides in the war. His theories concentrated on several ideas:
- Artillery should be centrally controlled, with each component having a specific task. This was a relatively
radical idea at the time, but definitely showed up later (especially in U.S. and French World War II doctrine).
- By using mathematical techniques, it is possible to calculate where a shell will land with reasonable
accuracy. It is thus not necessary to "register" the artillery by firing ranging shots (thus revealing
that an artillery attack is coming, giving the targets a chance to get under cover). If done right, the first
knowledge the targets should have are the shells crashing down around them.
- It was possible to increase the psychological effects of the pre-attack barrage by varying its intensity. If
you could induce the enemy to come out of his protection you could hit him again with a new barrage. After doing this
a few times, the enemy troops would be reluctant to leave shelter and your infantry could move in with less opposition.
- By establishing communications between the forward observers and a centralized command, you could shift
your fires as needed.
Bruchmüller's techniques were first tried on the Russians in the battle of Riga in 1916, and later
in the 1918 offensives on the Western Front. Combined with the new Stosstrupp tactics, they proved extremely effective.
The troops gave him the nickname "Durchbruchmüller" (Breakthroughmuller). He published his
theories in the 1920's, and his legacies have great influence on artillery doctrine even today.
At the end of World War I, almost all of the theoretical groundwork needed to control artillery had been developed in
one form or another. World War II techniques were refinements of those used in World War I, and differences in National
Doctrine were really caused by a different emphasis on the key ideas of Command, Control, and Communications.