Alt Manhay quick AAR

Discussion in 'CO2 - After Action Reports' started by john connor, Apr 26, 2016.

  1. john connor

    john connor Member

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    I have found it easy to win the stock Manhay crossroads scenario, whether playing as Axis or Allies. I'm sure I'm not alone in this. The scenario - way back when - used to be quite difficult from the Axis side, I always thought. But various changes have changed various things (I'm not sure what) so that it's no longer like that. If I play as Allies the Axis AI gets bogged down dissipating its considerable force between too many objectives, if I play as Axis then the Allies similarly fail to concentrate attacks where needed.

    So I decided to produce two versions with a different play balance, tweaked with the object of trying to get the enemy AI to play more aggressively, to concentrate force and put in more devastating co-ordinated attacks, whilst keeping the historical set-up and OOB, and also keeping the historical objectives.

    What happened in real life - as everyone knows, no doubt - is that the Axis were able to mount a night surprise attack (more or less) on tired defenders and quite quickly take Manhay and Grandmenil. From there they tried to expand to the west with the goal of passing through Erezee en route to the Meuze. It's not very clear why their goal wasn't to use the much larger road north from Manhay. Their western expansion was countered around Sadzot and Briscol by allied reinforcements, they fell back on Manhay and Grandmenil and were able to hold these towns for a couple of days before the Allies kicked them out again. And thus ended Axis aggression in this sector. When I started tweaking the AI objectives etc i wanted to make sure that it was possible for the Axis AI to at least achieve these historical results. The key factor that disrupted their plans in real life was allied artillery.

    So, now I'll quickly play through the altered version set up for play as Allies, and see how effective my changes were. I have a particular fondness for this scenario as I live not far from the battlefield and have visited often.

    1.png

    This is the starting position.
    I think the key first thing to note is the condition of the allied troops. I have picked B Co. 48th AI Bn to illustrate things. Most units on the map are in a similar condition. Fatigue is at 68% and morale at 45%. It's night time as we start (9pm) and they should be resting. if they get into a fight in this condition then I would expect to see a lot of retreats and routing, followed by surrenders etc.

    The side briefing says this:

    Since the Germans have broken through our lines in the southeast, it is imperative that you establish a defensive line, to form a secure 'shoulder'. CCA/7th Armored Division is to fall back to the high ground north of Manhay. The divisional train is presently trying to get through Manhay. Troops are tired and communications poor. There has been heavy fighting south of Manhay at the Baraque de Fraiture crossroads (off map) and there is real urgency to move the 7th Armored column out of its vulnerable position in Manhay, before any Axis scouts get through.What we know of the Germans general plan is that they intend to push with full speed to the Meuse, which would mean any attack would likely focus on pushing directly north through Manhay using the best road available. Reserves are on their way to counter this asap. You should note that a less rapid route to the Meuse would cut west at Manhay through Grandmenil and on to Erezee, though since the roads in this direction are poor it is more likely any attack would prefer a northern thrust.
    Orders: 1. Get the 7th Armored column out of Manhay and to safety in the north. 2. Pull back TK Kane, which is very exposed. 3. Man outposts in Grandmenil, Manhay and anywhere else you deem appropriate, keeping scouts to the south in case there is a break through at Baraque. 4. After that try to get the troops rested and organise any reinforcements that arrive during darkness. Tomorrow will be a tough day.

    So they know less than me about what is about to happen! But that makes no difference because the briefing also tells me that the initial orders delay will move from 600% to 100% during the first 7 hours. So I can make all the orders I want, but the Axis are still going to have the benefit of their (historical) surprise.

    The three yellow circles show my 3 objectives. Together they yield slightly less than 50% of points and all points are given for occupation only - so to get half points I would need to occupy them all early and hang onto them. But over 50% of points are given for destroying 50% of the enemy. So the idea is that I should try to hurt the opposition, not just go for objectives. However, to get a win I will have to do both.

    I have a major decision to make at the very start. Whether to order my units strung out in Manhay back north (as instructed) and to then try to rest them, or whether to order them into Grandmenil and Manhay. Whichever I choose, nothing will happen for several hours due to the initial orders delay settings. If I don't rest them I will undoubtedly lose many of them if - as my advance scouts tell me - a major Axis offensive is about to fall on us.

    As far as routes of Axis attack, I've numbered them 1 through 5. They're all pretty obvious except for number 3. Only careful checking of the map terrain reveals that there exists this backdoor - for armour and infantry - over the river Aisne, which is, in fact, a mere stream where the route crosses it.
     
  2. john connor

    john connor Member

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    A couple of pics to illustrate visibility in the sector (during day time)

    manhay.png

    This is looking from Grandmenil to Manhay (way in the distance), from google earth

    manhay to grandmenil.png

    And in the other direction. The thing I note is how obstructed LOS is across land which appears on maps (including the game map) as 'clear'. This is because clear terrain in this area is full of small folds in the land, hedges, trees etc. For this reason my alt scenario is played on a tweaked map. I have reduced the visibility effects a little for clear terrain. Done at Dave's suggestion, in fact. It may not make a huge difference. We'll see.
     
  3. john connor

    john connor Member

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    On the right the forces on the map at start. On the left reinforcements.

    5.png

    TF Kane, which includes 12 Shermans, is a little isolated down in Lamormenil. I will try to get it back north.

    The force strung out and exhausted on the road north from Manhay consists of the CCA of 7th Armoured base column, HQ and 2 roughly Bn size forces - 40 Tank and 48th Armoured Infantry. Each has scout units further south on the road which leads back to Baraque de Fraiture, where, historically, TF Rose had been defeated and pushed aside quite recently, allowing through elements of 2 SS Das Reich, a notorious formation already (not too long out of Normandy and the massacre at Oradour sur Glane). Up to around 1943 DR was still an elite unit which had taken part in key battles at Kharkov and Kursk, but, as with nearly all Axis units in this later stage of the war, this was no longer so true. Still, in my alt scenario I have given a bonus to the aggressiveness ratings for this Axis unit and its commanders. Once again, this may not make too much difference, but we'll see.

    I have plenty reinforcements arriving, including key powerful artillery units, but the early stages of this battle are going to be crucial. Because, despite my side briefing and orders, I have info that a large Axis attack is coming and I know that if they manage to gain footholds in both Manhay and Grandmenil then it will be very hard to dislodge them. On the other hand, if I can get into at least one of those towns quickly, then I can hope to defend until the reinforcements arrive. But to choose this latter course will be costly, because the men in my units are trashed. So, do I pull back north to rest, or try to grab either (or both) Manhay and Grandmenil? For the time being I think the objective at Awez is out of my reach.
     
  4. john connor

    john connor Member

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    Because I'm not sure when the Axis attack is coming, how long it will take to develop and along which route, I have decided to take a chance. I will order 40 Tank and 48 AI into Grandmenil and Manhay, respectively. I attach, however, A company of 48AI to 40 Tank, and A company of 40 Tank to 48AI, so that both Bns have a mix of armour and infantry. And because there is a chance that the Axis will already be there when they arrive (given how hard it will be for everyone to get their orders quickly) I actually give 2 attack orders to these Bns. I select 'fastest, quickest' with no rest and max rof. I am hoping these orders will get through before the Axis can strike. I know that if the SS units, for example, decide to attack using only the main road into Manhay form the south (the big red road) then they will run into my scout/holding forces there, and that may slow them down considerably, as there is little room to maneuver in the woods either side of that road. C company of 48AI has an unenviable task there. As it did historically.

    In total, to start off, I give 7 orders. They are all shown in the plan window in the pic below.
    1. I decide to try to get TF Kane out to Awez and use them to hold that objective, getting there via the back route. I give it fastest, avoidance, min aggro, max rof and bypass instructions to try to ensure it disengages form any threats and gets there.
    2. I give my single arty battery - the 275 Amd FD Arty Bn - a defend order that will move it so that Manhay and its environs no longer fall within its min range circle (the black circle in the pic).
    3. I give the CCA base a defend order moving it to the far north of the map on the red main road.
    4. Ditto the CCA base. I give both units the same 'disengage' orders I gave TF Kane.
    5. I give my on map boss - XVIII Airborne - a simple defend in situ order.
    6. I give 40 Tank the attack order into Grandmenil with A co of 48th AI attached.
    7. I give 48th AI, with A co 40 Tank attached the attack order into Manhay. Both attacks are to be fastest, quickest with max rof, no rest.

    Nothing is to rest just yet, in fact. I have 'no rest' set as the default in the game options. (Similarly, I have 'rest after bombard' unchecked).


    6.png
     
  5. john connor

    john connor Member

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    1 hour and 20 mins after I send out the orders 40 tank receives them......
    Others begin to follow.

    7.png

    Some wide-awake unit has seen or heard (more likely) an enemy infantry unit passing by the turn off for Lamormenil. Or maybe somebody shone some lights. Not sure how it is that I have intel on an enemy foot unit just south of Oster, in the dead of night, but that's all I have so far. Suggests, sadly, that not all Axis units will be using the big red road. But there's nothing I can do now. I have to let the orders percolate down....
     
  6. john connor

    john connor Member

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  7. john connor

    john connor Member

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    9.png

    Though re-org and attack markers are showing on my units, in fact, they are still motionless, still labouring under the heavy orders delay.

    I'm unsure what to do for the best. The point of my changed initial orders delay setting was to guarantee an Axis surprise attack, which is what has happened.

    In the end I cancel the attack orders given to 40 Tank and 48th AI and replace them with defend in situ orders, on max rof and aggro, with 'attack' checked. I just want them to sit there and defend themselves, basically. I give those new orders at 00.40, but I'm guessing it could be an hour before they even receive them......
     
    #7 john connor, Apr 26, 2016
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2016
  8. john connor

    john connor Member

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  9. john connor

    john connor Member

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    The land hasn't changed much since 1944.

    11.png

    The yellow lines show where the next image was taken from (roughly):

    12.png

    Historically, as far as I'm aware, no battle between the 2 SS Panthers and the confused CCA supply train and tanks took place in these fields. Historically, the Axis armour instead came down the N30 (the big red road on the CO2 map), taking on and quickly defeating the outposts in the woods above Manhay, before entering Manhay itself in such total darkness that Panthers were able to get in amongst the CCA supply train trucks and start firing before they were spotted. There followed a messy engagement between the rearmost tanks of 40 Tank and the Panthers before the Allies fled northward as best they could.
     
    #9 john connor, Apr 26, 2016
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2016
  10. Dave 'Arjuna' O'Connor

    Dave 'Arjuna' O'Connor Panther Games Designer

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    Nice work Peter. Those pictures are obviously taken in summer. I can remember being there in October and it was a lot darker and hazier during the day. You couldn't see as far, well not clearly anyway.
     
  11. john connor

    john connor Member

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    Cheers, Dave. I think I should have altered the map base vis layer effects more, in fact. I did as you suggested and put it just below those which Heide uses, but I think maybe Heide should be upped a bit, and base level too. We'll see if any effects are noticeable.
     
  12. Daz

    Daz Member

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    Very interesting, thanks Pete.

    When you take visibility into account, remember the scale of the game.
    A Coy position has a frontage of about 500m - 800m, its not just one guy stood in one position, with his line of sight blocked by a few trees.
    Any one of them men over that frontage can spot and engage a target it sees and bring the attention of it to others, including the AT teams and the MFC, FOO's.

    Likewise the enemy units are not just one tank or man, but many, all of which cant hide behind the same bush ;)
     
  13. Daz

    Daz Member

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    Here is a bit of footage from Manhay.
    It doesn't show a lot of the surrounding terrain unfortunately but there are a few glimpses.

     
  14. Daz

    Daz Member

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    Better Quality one here:

     
  15. john connor

    john connor Member

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    Thanks, Daz! Great little movie. That site - which I know - is full of great pics and clips. It's run by the owner of the Bo-Temps guesthouse in Grandmenil, a really nice guy. The guesthouse is in one of the few houses which were left standing after the Allies had well and truly stomped the town. It's incredible to go there (as it is to almost any warzone) and see that, without anything by way of state aid or assistance, they managed to rebuild entirely the town within ten years or so, from rubble. Immediately after the battle the house which is now the Bo-temps was home to seven or eight families, I believe, whilst they set about clearing up and starting to rebuild. Bob ( the owner) does tours which are very well done. There's relics and ordnance all over. Highly recommend staying at the Bo-Temps and doing one of his tours, for anyone wishing to visit this bit of the Ardennes.

    Good point about the frontage.
     
  16. john connor

    john connor Member

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    They all seem very cheerful, those civilians. There was virtually nothing left of the town when they returned.
     
  17. john connor

    john connor Member

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  18. john connor

    john connor Member

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  19. Daz

    Daz Member

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    Its great to have another one of these discussions again.
    I always learn a lot from them :)

    Here is an image of Manhay Crossroads.
    Note how stripped and bare the lower portion of the trees are in that conifer line on the road top left section.
    Possibly the locals stripping them for firewood?

    Manhay-airial.jpg

    Manhay.jpg
     
  20. john connor

    john connor Member

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    They're certainly stripped in the bottom pic. ....

    The top pic faces Grandmenil. The trees you mention are on the road from Manhay to Grandmenil. It's a great photo. Taken when? Do you know?

    I have the 'then and now' bulge book with lots of these photos in (including these two, I think), but we're moving house next week and everything is boxed up.

    The bottom pic shows the view south west from the crossroads in Manhay out along the valley road that leads to Oster, eventually. They fairly recently (in the last forty years..) found an AT gun buried in the ground just in front of the big house. It's not in the photo. It's on display now.
     

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