Artillery Use Question

Iorwerth

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Just started getting into the game and think that it is excellent. Really enjoying it and just got the Arnhem mission pack.

I have a question about artillery. What is the best way of using it to get the most out of the game, not necessarily the best out of the art?

I was wondering if I want to attach it to my battalions (when ordering battalions around individually) and then use that dedicated artillery support option with orders. Or should i leave it to be decided by whatever is its organic boss, or should I just control it myself?

I worry that if I control it myself I will be stealing an advantage on the AI.

What do others do who have more experience of the system?

Really enjoying the game. Completed the tutorial and now going to crash into Market Garden! :)
 

GoodGuy

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The AI is quite clever when it comes to direct-support missions or on-call missions (that's where the arty accepts requests from other units as well), but it tends to be a tick too eager when friendly units lose visual contact, which means that it may keep firing at the last reported/confirmed enemy position for a few more minutes, occasionally, which may result in wasting ammo on targets that have actually moved/retreated already.

This can be ignored if the (arty) unit has full ammo stocks and if the supply lines are secured, but this may turn out to be a problem for isolated para units or if the unit is running low on ammo constantly.

You can counter this - to some extent - by using the "rest after bombardment" option, if you control them manually, and also by disabling on-call missions.

I use to detach all arty assets and control them manually to reduce ammo consumption, but also to be able to determine arty focus points myself, as on-call arties may also listen to "whining" AI commanders who call for arty missions where they could do without arty support actually. I even group such units to create more punch on some manually ordered arty missions, occasionally.
AI arties may not engage sometimes, if friendly units are too close. In order to play it safe, you can then readjust the bombardment marker to the corner of the enemy unit's counter or even slightly off the enemy unit. A number of shells may then still hit a part of the enemy unit, depending of the footprint of your arty unit, if I am not mistaken. You can also order the unit to ignore the possibility of friendly fire, I am just not sure if that option allows you to completely move the bombardment marker over the enemy nowadays, if an enemy is right in front or even "under" the friendly unit('s counter).
 
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john connor

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If possible, I NEVER call in arty manually, personally, because I have noted that it utterly tilts things in your favour vis a vis the AI. That's my experience. The arty is very powerful, as it was in real life, and you can stop any attack dead by using it manually, with the (unrealistic) facility you have as human commander to mass it with pinpoint accuracy at the drop of a hat. I have found the AI to be perfectly competent at calling in arty in most scenarios, sufficient to deliver a decent gaming experience (and it has, I believe, got way better in the build which we are presently testing, as Dave has tried to fix some behaviours which led to the AI controlled (enemy) arty being prone to relocate too much, and hence not being in a position to actually fire support missions. Hopefully, this build is only a couple of weeks from release.

You can arrange things to better suit your needs by, as you suggest, attaching portions of your higher level arty to attack formations etc, so that they will be more easily able to call on it. But I believe even this gives you a huge advantage over the AI capability, and so I refrain from this also.

Playing in this way, keeping my fingers off the barrage button, I still find that arty caused casualties at scenario end are usually very high.

And one of the joys of the game, for me, is sitting back and watching how the AI handles my arty needs, watching barrage after barrage go in, usually to very good effect, without me having had to hold anyone's hand to get it. (But, like I said, I am playing with the very latest beta build and I don't actually recall what things were like in much earlier builds, maybe not so efficient, given Dave has worked to fix certain arty habits. But everyone should have the new beta soon, fingers crossed....)
 
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Iorwerth

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Thanks for all the info and advice! I suppose what I would like to do is have the AI control the art as much as possible, so that I don't steal an advantage on the AI opponents by directing it all myself, as was pointed out above. However, the supply point was interesting. I wonder if you keep an eye on their supply and, when it gets to a certain point, you manually take control, rest them for a bit rather than using them, and then reassign them back into the organic supply chain, you can half control how quickly they burn through supplies. Or maybe have some under your control and resting at any one time, and swap the groups around every now and again, so there is always some arty conserving ammo if that is necessary, but all fire control is done by the AI. So the AI is making all the fire missions and you are just making sure supply is not run through too quickly, though that sytem does require some monitoring of all the arty to determine supply levels.

Fact that a new build is on the way sounds great - good timing to get into the game at this point then!

I have Highway to the Reich - any suggestions about what order to do the scenarios, or which are better ones for a novice to dive into?
 

GoodGuy

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The arty is very powerful, as it was in real life, and you can stop any attack dead by using it manually, with the (unrealistic) facility you have as human commander to mass it with pinpoint accuracy at the drop of a hat.

It's not unrealistic to mass arty units/pieces. The German rules/field manuals allowed German commanders to combine batteries and the COs used to do it frequently. The US Army increasingly performed concentrated fire missions in 1944, and the Russians even put up the biggest arty pools by combining them in Arty Corps. Also, artillery could be quite accurate, especially certain German artillery pieces and certain US pieces. The Germans and the Russians also had their infantry guns, that could perform (very) high-angle fire and lob shells right into enemy trenches.
Plus, the Germans used the airburst method to shell enemy troops in woods, which led to high casualty rates, as troops weren't just hit by shell fragments, but also by splinters from trees.

Amassing and manually controlling arty units is especially realistic in situations where your units are dug in/defending a perimeter and waiting for the enemy to attack.
All armies then used arty grids to be able to plaster incoming attackers. If detailed maps were not available, arty units used observed fire to create fire tables, means they fired say at the edge of a wood 400 meters away, at the center of the open field between friendly trenches and the wood, at a house in the distance etc., to build their own fire matrices.
Artillery commanders then ordered batteries to pre-aim at the expected point of attack (eg. the edge of the wood).
It then took less than 2 or 3 mins to transmit the fire request + the coordinates and to actually fire the first shells.
If the target was shifted, then the arty crews needed 1 or 2 more mins to adjust the guns to the new target along the expected path.
The whole process took another say 4 or 5 mins if the guns had to be turned to aim at a totally different spot.

US artillery observers had an advantage in 1944, as they could use (smaller) portable transistor radios, which offered a somewhat higher range and enhanced mobility of those observers. This even allowed them to call in arty missions behind enemy lines (or when surrounded), which appeared to be a major advantage in the Ardennes theater.

All sides performed aerial observation for the artillery. The Germans employed a range of dedicated observation planes (from the Fieseler Storch to twin-engine observation planes with long-range radios), they just had reduced (or even non-existent) aerial recon capabilities in late 1944 due to lack of aviation fuel and high pilot/plane losses - the Germans then had to resort to using high observation points like hilltops, church towers and other structures, or even purely relied on arty grids (for unobserved fire).

The Germans could also triangulate enemy arties by employing sound measure squads (a recon branch of the artillery), which had been introduced in WWI already (at least the French had created such squads as well during WWI), in order to perform counterbattery missions (which were pretty accurate on the EF). That method was used extensively on the EF.
This capability is not rendered in the game

Divisional artillery prepared detailed fire plans for planned offensives, in which potential resistance/hiding spots or identified enemy positions along the advance path were registered. The batteries then executed a fire plan to plaster such positions consecutively and to keep up with the advance of the friendly units, when the offensive started.

The main method to obscure FUPs or approaches - to protect advancing friendly units during attacks - was to lay smoke screens, which are not rendered in the game. The German Army and the US Army used smoke excessively, both Armies also used smoke generators (the US Army employed "Chemical Smoke Generating Companies", eg. the 161st Chemical Smoke Generating Coy in the 3rd Army, the Germans used generators to obscure factories, harbor installations, coastal installations in France and the Tirpitz in Norway, for example) the Brits used it occasionally afaik (mainly in Italy, rarely in North Africa), I am not sure about Russian usage levels.

The Germans often dropped smoke on Russian attack waves to confuse the Russian infantry and to lower their cohesion, means they used it on the defensive, in sectors with fixed fronts (eg. first half of 1942). For this, detailed fire tables were created, arty positions thoroughly measured, and the accuracy of the grids confirmed by firing a few observed rounds at key points.

After dropping the smoke, quite some arty units then dropped reversely rolling concentrated (put out by several batteries) barrages into the smoke to disperse/kill the Russian attackers.
Usually, such defensive fire missions were very effective as the Russian inf - blinded by the smoke - then just hit the ground during such barrages, or as the bombardments thinned out the attack formations to such extent, that after such barrages sometimes only a handful of troops were left to proceed with the attack. Sometimes the losses (or the panic levels) were so high, that the units just retreated hastily back to Russian lines.

Despite the fact that there were no drones, no video transmissions, no satellite images or gps data available back then, the procedures were quite quick and artillery fire was often quite effective, first and foremost in open terrain. For targets in wooded areas, the Germans learned to master airbursts, time fuzed HE shells that would go off at stomach or head level, where then the high amount of wood splinters created evil wounds, but they would also reduce the protection level of foxholes, if they exploded near/above them. The US developed the radar proximity fuze to create these same effects, but the introduction came late so the shells were rarely used, afaik.

Today's procedures give a good idea about how thorough (and how many) artillery procedures are predefined.
While a lot of of the modern optimized processes and procedures are supported by computers, and while distinct rules guide command and control, the essence was already performed back then:

https://armypubs.army.mil/epubs/DR_pubs/DR_a/pdf/web/ARN5999_ATP 3-09x90 FINAL WEB 1.pdf

If I am not mistaken, the highest overall death toll during WWII was caused by artillery shells (all types, all firing methods, all fronts).
The Pacific Theater, respectively some Battles on a number of Pacific islands might have seen less arty use, as less arty pieces could be landed/employed on both sides, but Allied or Japanese naval artillery (if available) usually filled the role, so a reduction of arty usage didn't appear in each and every island operation.

as Dave has tried to fix some behaviours which led to the AI controlled (enemy) arty being prone to relocate too much, and hence not being in a position to actually fire support missions. Hopefully, this build is only a couple of weeks from release.

That sounds nice. The enemy arty AI is actually pretty mean, if it's in position to fire, which I really like. You can't just rush an enemy position through an open field, if the enemy unit has arty support. Such lively arty AI creates an amazing realism level.
 
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john connor

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It's not unrealistic to mass arty units/pieces.

No. But the enemy AI doesn't really do this to any extreme degree, hence the imbalance. As player you can, for example, merely click on the on-map boss bombard symbol to harness every unit under the boss and focus it on any attack you care to, and within a couple of minutes it's there and that attack is stalled.
 

GoodGuy

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No. But the enemy AI doesn't really do this to any extreme degree, hence the imbalance.
That's correct. I've seen instances where a Bn's mortar Coy, Coy mortars and one or another heavy arty asset pounded one of my units during attacks in CO 1 - iirc, though.

As player you can, for example, merely click on the on-map boss bombard symbol to harness every unit under the boss and focus it on any attack you care to, and within a couple of minutes it's there and that attack is stalled.

Well, with that method, each and every unit in range would join the bombardment, including mortar coys and even inf guns - if in range, if I am not mistaken. That would be somewhat gamey, indeed.
The US Army ordered all available arty pieces (not all bombardment pieces) to target the same target on a few occasions, though, somewhere between late 1944 and early 1945, but they targeted one or another village and a few towns in each of those cases. The places were flattened and the German defenders hiding there experienced heavy casualties.

But German regimental commanders could (and did frequently) take all the heavy arty pieces from the Bns, combine and employ them as regimental arty. They could employ them to their liking - either combined to support a particular Bn or even Coy, or independently as sections in support of different Coys.
In endangered sectors on the EF, a 2nd Arty Regiment, or the bulk of it, was often attached to a division, in order to bolster the defensive fire capabilities. Armies or Corps would also assist by ordering their assets (arty reserve held back and employed or lent out by an Army or a Corps HQ) to help.
The Germans formed one experimental Artillery Division (18th Artillery Division with 3 Regiments) in late 1943 to cater for such cases - means to create an arty focal point and to test how such large formation would perform if tasked to bombard the very same target (area). I am guessing that they concluded that the existing practice, lending and reattaching units, worked well enough, so that Arty divisions were not needed.

So, by giving the player the ability to group let's say 2 or 3 arty regiments, the game engine allows the player to implement the historical German arty doctrine, where the use of such arty groups was common. A lot of arty regiments were not employed as one group (means with all Abteilungen), though, as individual Abteilungen were lent out and attached to other inf divisions, for days, sometimes even for weeks/months.
The list of deployments of some of those Abteilungen (= Bns) reads like a constant shuffle in which they didn't get back to their parent unit for months. I am not sure if the scenario designers managed to catch all these instances, it's quite confusing.

Firepower: If all pieces of an arty regiment bombarded an attacking inf unit in real life, then the unit's attack would have stalled in most cases, as (if the troops didn't take cover and kept storming) the losses would have been so high, that the unit either retreated/routed, or ceased to exist shortly after the point where the remnants had managed to get closer to the German trenches (and in effective MG range). In some sectors (eg. 1942, Army Group B, Army group South, especially the Sevastopol defenders), the Russians switched to night attacks to avoid the German barrages.

The Russians created the mentioned Arty Corps and put them under the direct command of Stavka. These large assets could then employ up to several thousand arty pieces, which were used to concentrate their fire on the German positions in the projected breakthrough strip, before the tanks then commenced their deep thrusts through these corridors. The arty assets were then tasked to bombard/cover the left and right flanks of the tank thrust, to deny counterattacks. If some German units then showed up on the flanks, the Corps units would welcome them with combined fire missions, virtually instantly.

I do understand that it would be frustrating for quite a few players to deal with such AI fire missions, though. A proper play balance has to be kept, ofc.

Arty units should be able to stall, but not route tanks, though. HE fire didn't do much to tanks, usually, unless a tank crew got really unlucky where say shell fragments penetrated a section with particularly thin armor (say in a Pz III or on the turret roof of a Pz IV), or where blasts knocked off a track.
The explosions of the arty shells, smoke and flying debris could obscure the field of view, though, which then hampered navigation and self defense efforts say in villages or places with a limited amount of usable tank paths.
Some Russian larger calibre rockets (eg. the bulbous M-30) damaged or knocked out such tanks on some occasions (as their explosive charges were in the middle section, not in the front tip, so that the explosion occured at waist level where then fragments could penetrate some corners of the side or rear armor - these rockets were designed as anti-personnel weapons, though). But even if a tank threw a track or if a rare direct hit stunned or knocked out the crew, the rest of the unit could just proceed.

Unfortunately, the engine can't split/spawn units, to simulate vehicle breakdowns or vehicles falling behind.
 
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JArraya

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All very good points above. I think it's about what gives you the best experience, and for me, it's usually letting the AI command about half the artillery (especially if there is a lot of it) and me controlling the other half. I prefer to use the manual option only on "planned attacks". In other words, where I role play that the commanders would have known they were attacking a location with plenty of time (ie. taking a town or victory point, crossing a river, etc.). I assume that these positions would have been sighted and ranged prior and to a certain degree of accuracy. Another question I ask myself is "how realistic is it that this unit would have a artillery controller?" If it's a well rested, cohesive and equipped unit, I assume yes. Otherwise I assume they wouldn't be able to call in a precise artillery attack.
Maybe not very realistic but I find that in most scenarios the AIs losses and mine are comparable.
 

GoodGuy

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Another question I ask myself is "how realistic is it that this unit would have a artillery controller?" If it's a well rested, cohesive and equipped unit, I assume yes. Otherwise I assume they wouldn't be able to call in a precise artillery attack.
Maybe not very realistic but I find that in most scenarios the AIs losses and mine are comparable.

All arty / mortar units employed forward controllers, which were then embedded in line units or placed somewhat behind the MBL in camouflaged positions.

Additionally, and until at least 1943 each rgt. HQ of a German motorized Inf division also had at least 1 scissor scope which could be used as rangefinder (parallel vertical position for use as periscope, V-shaped extended position for use as rangefinder).

And the Bns employed their own FOs (for the pieces in their heavy Coys/heavy platoons and inf gun coys),
There were also dedicated rangefinders (which could not be used as persiscopes) that looked like bazooka tubes (with the oculars on each end), which were pretty much simplified mini-versions of the rangefinders on capital ships.
Combat units could also call in protective barrages without FOs during surprise attacks, they just needed to fire a flare and the artillery/bombardment units then started to barrage preconcerted areas. Idle guns usually aimed at such agreed barrage area. The FO was then supposed to take over asap.

In 1944, the heavy Coy (HMGs, 8-cm mortars, 12-cm mortars) of an Inf Bn was equipped with 8-cm mortars (2nd platoon) and with the 12-cm mortars (3rd platoon). The 3rd platoon (12-cm) had a scissor scope and a dedicated range-finder position (one soldier, armed with pistol). Next to their trained platoon leaders, the 2nd platoon and 3rd platoon had "aiming-circle" personnel (3 NCOs in the 2nd, 1 NCO and 1 grunt in the 3rd platoon) who measured the gun emplacement/position, so they had the knowlegde to take over FO duties, if necessary, imho.
Usually, the platoon leader or one of his NCOs was on FO duty, afaik. Since mortars were often ordered to bombard relatively close targets, the officers could then just observe the fire from their mortar emplacements or from a nearby spot.

The Bn's Inf gun Coy also provided FO troops.

So even if the artillery Rgt's observer (an FO troop usually consisted of 2 guys, 1 radio/field telephone operator, and the actual observer - an officer or NCO - calling out targets) was killed (FOs used to be popular targets), then the organic heavy Coy or the organic Inf gun Coy of an Inf Bn still had the tools and the (trained) personnel to measure distances and to call in strikes.

So, yes, not very realistic. :)
 
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ioncore

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As a side note, at least as of Steam 5.1.31 (not sure about LnL 5.1.28, probably it's not there yet, but I'll need to doublecheck) there were some additional artillery settings introduced into the Estab editor, which allow designers to fine-grain the artillery support for a whole Service by changing things like:
- chain of command modifier and max command (which will penalize cases when army group level 305mm howitzers are attached to an infantry battalion);
- min artillery liaison level (so that e.g. units below a company level won't be able to call artillery support)
- max adjustment delay and adjustment delay distance (which will affect how quick your artillery shifts fire)
- fire for effect delay.

All these parameters can be used to make artillery strikes longer or quicker to call, make them more flexible or less flexible, and sometimes make them happening less often (see the marked sentence about limiting the liaison level). Thus they can help to mitigate the effects of "overavailability" and "overpower" of the artillery.
My guess is that not a single of older (already released) DLCs are using any of these recently introduced parameters.
I'm currently experimenting with different settings for Khalkhin-Gol DLC, so we may see some effects (and may be even more artillery customization added on top of these) there.
 
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All arty / mortar units employed forward controllers, which were then embedded in line units or placed somewhat behind the MBL in camouflaged positions.

Additionally, and until at least 1943 each rgt. HQ of a German motorized Inf division also had at least 1 scissor scope which could be used as rangefinder (parallel vertical position for use as periscope, V-shaped extended position for use as rangefinder).

And the Bns employed their own FOs (for the pieces in their heavy Coys/heavy platoons and inf gun coys),
There were also dedicated rangefinders (which could not be used as persiscopes) that looked like bazooka tubes (with the oculars on each end), which were pretty much simplified mini-versions of the rangefinders on capital ships.
Combat units could also call in protective barrages without FOs during surprise attacks, they just needed to fire a flare and the artillery/bombardment units then started to barrage preconcerted areas. Idle guns usually aimed at such agreed barrage area. The FO was then supposed to take over asap.

In 1944, the heavy Coy (HMGs, 8-cm mortars, 12-cm mortars) of an Inf Bn was equipped with 8-cm mortars (2nd platoon) and with the 12-cm mortars (3rd platoon). The 3rd platoon (12-cm) had a scissor scope and a dedicated range-finder position (one soldier, armed with pistol). Next to their trained platoon leaders, the 2nd platoon and 3rd platoon had "aiming-circle" personnel (3 NCOs in the 2nd, 1 NCO and 1 grunt in the 3rd platoon) who measured the gun emplacement/position, so they had the knowlegde to take over FO duties, if necessary, imho.
Usually, the platoon leader or one of his NCOs was on FO duty, afaik. Since mortars were often ordered to bombard relatively close targets, the officers could then just observe the fire from their mortar emplacements or from a nearby spot.

The Bn's Inf gun Coy also provided FO troops.

So even if the artillery Rgt's observer (an FO troop usually consisted of 2 guys, 1 radio/field telephone operator, and the actual observer - an officer or NCO - calling out targets) was killed (FOs used to be popular targets), then the organic heavy Coy or the organic Inf gun Coy of an Inf Bn still had the tools and the (trained) personnel to measure distances and to call in strikes.

So, yes, not very realistic. :)
The game assumes that if any enemy unit is in a location visible to any friendly unit, friendly artillery can be targeted using that sighting.
 

GoodGuy

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The game assumes that if any enemy unit is in a location visible to any friendly unit, friendly artillery can be targeted using that sighting.

I think you meant "friendly artillery can target (that enemy) using that sighting".

That works for many situations, but doesn't cater for situations where say a tank unit operates beyond signal ranges, say 18 - 35 km away from any friendly unit. That's about the range (depending on what type of radio set was used) where tank units couldn't even morse anymore - and that'd be the command tank with more powerful radio equipment.
 
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I think you meant "friendly artillery can target (that enemy) using that sighting".

That works for many situations, but doesn't cater for situations where say a tank unit operates beyond signal ranges, say 18 - 35 km away from any friendly unit. That's about the range (depending on what type of radio set was used) where tank units couldn't even morse anymore - and that'd be the command tank with more powerful radio equipment.

Yes, that says what I meant to say better.

As far as the second matter, though radio sets can be accounted for in the Estabs for vehicles, the game doesn't model radio communications.
 
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GoodGuy

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As far as the second matter, tough radio sets can be accounted for in the Estabs for vehicles, the game doesn't model radio communications.

I know. My statement was meant to make a case for the consideration of historic radio ranges.
 

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