Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Luke Writes III

Luke has sent me some notes on his list writing thoughts. As he tends to know what hes talking about, I'm posting them unedited. All views in this post should not be construed as being the views of the blog owner, unless they are also the views held by the blog owner. As you were...

So far we've spent 788.6 points on our force, which has bought us 7 fighting battalions.  Now let's look at rounding out our force with some further Divisional assets.  When fielding WarPac forces, extra artillery assets are always something to consider.  We've already included two regimental battalions of 122 mm howitzers; Czechoslovakians don't have access to 120 mm mortars like other WarPac forces do, so can seem otherwise very short of firepower, because they only have 82 mm mortars, which are really gutless.  On the other hand, 82 mm mortars don't need to be towed, and they can't be targeted by enemy counterbattery fire.
We might consider bringing the Divisional anti-tank guns - but these are a complete waste of points in attack game, needing to be set-up before they can do anything, and being horribly slow because they are towed.  They can be worthwhile in a defence game however, especially if hidden.  Instead, lets consider yet more rockets, taken from the Divisional artilellry regiment, the 361st:

1 x FAO from 361st Artillery Regiment @ 10 x 0.8 = 8
4 x vz. 70 122 mm MRL (off-table)  @ 19 x 0.6 = 45.6

The vz. 70, being armoured, is essentially immune to counterbattery fire, which Czechoslovakians (and other WarPac 2 nations) are otherwise horribly vulnerable to.  Other nations can substitute the cheaper, but much  more vulnerable, BM-21, which is the same rocket launcher mounted on an unarmoured chassis.  Note that you might consider reducing this battalion down to 3 elements, because 4 elements of MRLs firing together is often overkill - you are talking about a beaten zone 16" across!   This brings us to 842.6 points.  We can squeeze a few more points out:

2 x PLDvK vz 53 AA guns with tows from 13th AA Regiment @ 4 x 0.8 = 6.4

These AA elements are essentially worthless as AA units, but make cheap filler that can boost a fighting battalion's effective size.  Moreover, they bring our points total up to 848.6 points - perfect! 

So what we have here is essentially two complete regiments (minus their higher-level AT and AA companies), each of 4 battalions (but each fighting as 3 because their tanks are attached out). The OT-64 battalions advance up the table, while the BVP battalions hang back initially as a reserve force. In addition we have the Divisional recon battalion, which can be kept in being, or attached out, as desired.  With 7 battalions we have plenty of flank-marching options as well.  Assuming you go deep for a deep flank march, you'll need a 6 to arrive, but you aren't investing all that many points in it, so even if it never arrives, you shouldn't lose too much sweat over it. You'll note the there is no independent Tank battalion as you'd see with a typical Soviet force - the Czechoslovakians had abolished theirs by this date.  These independent tank battalions can offer wargaming flexibility to an otherwise mostly-infantry force; especially because they might be equipped with gear different from other tanks in the Division to which they were attached.

We might want to consider some more "A options" at this point: one more will bring us up to four, which should be sufficient for most purposes.  Our last A option could be to add in the Divisional howitzers, for example, plus an ATGW battery from the Divisional AT regiment: 

1 x FAO from 361st Artillery Regiment @ 10 x 0.8 = 8
4 x 152 mm H vz. 18/47 with tows (off-table)  @ 9? x 0.6 = 21.6
2 x 9P133 @ 18 x 0.8 = 28.8

This lot also comes to 58.4 points.  These 152 mm divisional-level howitzers used by the Czechoslovakians were really ancient pieces, lacking the range of the 1930s vintage ML-20 and were post-war rebuilds of the late 1920s German 150 mm guns!   I could have chosen the cheaper (because Green) but otherwise identical AT company from the 5th regiment, but doing it this way allows it to be attached to any battalion, and not just one from the 5th regiment. 

Now if I was going to run a B option, what might it be?  We've started to run out of both divisional and regimental options (!), so we could start with a battalion drawn from yet another of the Division's regiments: the 33rd Tank regiment.  We'll take the battalion that has some T-72s in it, to throw some spice into the mix; this little unit comes to 118.8 points - almost right on the money:

1 x HQ T-55A @ 19 x 0.8 = 15.2
2 x T-55A @ 19 x 0.8 = 30.4
4 x T-72 @ 23 x 0.8 = 73.6

It would be a prime candidate for reinforcement with those cheap divisional AA guns. 

Another option might be to add in the Divisional HQ and various assets.  By doing this as a points option, we will not have to reduce the size of our fighting battalions to field it.  Running a DHQ can be risky, because losing it means you can't issue any more orders at all, and, depending on the circumstances of its loss, give them further VPs as well.  On the other hand, DHQs have a unique ability - they are not attached to a fighting battalion like an RHQ is; rather, companies can be attached to them, so they are like a battalion HQ - except you don't issue orders to them.  A DHQ doesn't have to worry about command arrows etc., like all other command elements do - it is representing the formation's CinC after all, so needs no orders being sent out or received to activate it.  This can make it the centre of a uniquely flexible reserve, as it moves when and where you want it to.  So let's have a look at what the bare DHQ looks like:
1 x HQ stand in OT-64 @ 7 x 0.8 = 5.6
1 x Security (Infantry Combat) Team in OT-64 @ 7 x 0.8 = 5.6
1 x Motorcycle Infantry @ 6 x 0.8 = 4.8
2 x BRDM-2rch NBC recon @ 3 x 0.8 = 4.8
This only comes to 20.8 points - so we could field it as part of an A option if we want.  Let's add the 5th regiment's ATGW company (so we can use the already purchased divisional ATGW to accompany the DHQ):

2 x 9P133 @ 18 x 0.6 = 21.6
Still only 41.6 points.  We can't run an A option and a B option together, so we could add some Divisional Engineering assets here as in our first A option:

1 x Recon OT-65 @ 3 x 0.8 = 2.4
2 x Light Engineer teams in OT-64s @ 6 x 0.8 = 9.6

That's 53.6 points so far.  If we do run a DHQ, it is likely to attract enemy aircraft, if present, so better have some more AA assets present:

1 x 2K11M KRUG (off-table) @ 32 x 0.6 = 19.2
1 x PLDvK vz. 53/59 @ 14 x 0.8 = 11.2
Which leaves us enough points for some counterbattery guns:

4 x M-46 130 mm guns with tows (off-table) @ 13 x 0.6 = 33.6
Which gives us a total of 117.4 points for this rather unusual B option.  Exactly what companies may be attached to a DHQ is a bit unclear under the rules.  Divisional-level ones obviously.  But can companies be stripped from a battalion and assigned to the DHQ?  I would hazard not - because that sounds too much like cross-attaching, which isn't allowed.  Can you buy, under Keith's system, companies from an otherwise not-represented fighting battalion, and pre-assign them to a DHQ?  That sounds much more reasonable.  Perhaps a company of T-55 tanks from the 33rd Tank battalion: 45.6 points' worth.

Even without taking any options, this is quite a powerful force.  Its strength of course, is its enormous size.  Any situation in which it can trade elements one-for-one is thus a winning situation: close assaults are often such a situation.  Thus suppressing enemy elements in preparation for such a close assault is often better than attempting to kill them outright; smoke can usefully be employed to screen your elements, or often even better, the enemy's; those 82 mm mortars can actually occasionally do something valuable here.  Its large number of battalions means it can contest all available objectives simultaneously, making for difficult deployment decisions for opposing defenders.  And when facing this outfit, you must always be on the lookout against a flank march...

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Luke writes II

Luke has sent me some notes on his list writing thoughts. As he tends to know what hes talking about, I'm posting them unedited. Again ,all views in this post should not be construed as being the views of the blog owner, unless they are also the views held by the blog owner. As you were...

So let's now tackle the main list.  With 850 points to play with, we will have enough points to take essentially two regiments (i.e. MSH brigades) worth of gear.  This is a "good thing", because3 regiments, or to be more exact, two RHQs, allows us more opportunities to make order change attempts.  As a WarPac 2 player, you will be looking at need to roll a 6 to get an order change through a lot of the time, so being able to make 2 attempts per turn, rather than 1, is quite an improvement. (If you are willing to skimp on the size of your battalions, you can even get more units on the ground, and bring along a Divisional HQ, but that tends to be counter-productive in terms of VPs, because having more units means the enemy will earn VPs much more easily under Keith's system.)

Under MSH, recon elements are much more useful than in WW2, because they get bonuses in attempting to call in artillery.  Since WarPac2 artillery isn't the easiest of things to request successfully, every little advantage helps.  Thus the Divisional recon battalion should be high on the list of priorities in an attack list.  This also introduces flexibility, since it can be broken down into its component companies, and attached out, if desired.  All nice and good.  So let's take a look at it:

1 x HQ (OT-65) @ 3 x 0.8 = 2.4
1 x Light Engineers in OT-62A @ 7 x 0.8 = 5.6
2 x OT-65 @ 3 x 0.8 = 4.8
6 x BVP-1 @ 11 x 0.8 =52.8

65.6 points all-told (but be aware that not all the points totals here have been validated yet by Keith, so there may be some minor adjustments required in the future).  Note that these recon BVPs are not combat teams; they can't dismount.  They are thus really weak anti-tank elements in terms of combat capabilities.  The engineer element could be dropped, as it doesn't add anything in terms of morale, but does make the unit, when kept together, "normal" sized under Keith's system (which can be both a problem as well as a blessing).

Now what about the fighting battalions? We'll take two regiments - one Regular and one Green.  An alternative would be to take a mix of different-morale battalions within each regiment, but this doesn't support the philosophy of the list I am trying to create here, as I will hope to demonstrate.  I'll start with an OT-64-based regiment: the 4th Motor Rifle Regiment. This regiment will be the one with Regular morale.  The reason for this is that the individual battalions in an OT regiment are bigger, and will be correspondingly harder to break; they will be used in the front line. 

The BVP regiment, the 5th, will be the Green one, and will be used as the reserve force.  Because they are fully tracked, they are less impeded by terrain, and thus tend to move around faster; an important consideration when committing reserves.  Because they are most likely to face enemy that have already been weakened by the first line, and will likely engage enemy already engaging our front line, they should take less casualties, and thus are more suitable for being rated Green.

WarPac 2 forces can have up to half their battalions as reserves - and they must make use of this allowance to overcome their otherwise shocking 3C "capabilities".  You might consider keep two of your BVP battalions as on-table reserves, and the third as an off-table reserve, to keep the enemy guessing as to whether it is flank marching or not, or even if it exists - most opponents you haven't faced before will likely be astonished at the size of your on-table forces as it is!

I like to buy my rifle battalions with their tank companies already attached, as allowed under Keith's system.  This has the advantage of not requiring you to pay for a battalion HQ that you won't be using anyway.  Their job is simply to stop the enemy picking off your infantry vehicles by sacrificing themselves until the infantry are close enough to assault. If the tanks actually kill anything, that is just a bonus.

So let's look at our OT-64 battalions:

1x HQ team in OT-64 @ 7 x 0.8 = 5.6
1 x PLDvK vz 53 twin 30 mm AA with towing truck @ 4 x 0.8 = 3.2
2 x OT-810 At half-track @ 8 x 0.8 = 12.8
2 x vz 52 82 mm M in truck @ 4 x 0.8 = 6.4
1 x AGL team in OT-64 @ 6 x 0.8 = 4.8
6 x Infantry teams in OT-64 @ 7 x 0.8 = 33.6
3 x T-55A @ 19 x 0.8 = 45.6

A total of 112 points per battalion, so 3 of them will cost 336 points, for a running total of 401.6 points.  Now let's round out the rest of the regiment.

1 x Regimental HQ team in OT-64 or OT-810 @ 7 x 0.8 = 5.6
2 x Regimental NBC recon BRDM-2rch @ 3 x 0.8 = 4.8
2 x consolidated Regimental vz. 53 130 mm MRL (off-table) @ 12 x 0.6 = 14.4
1 x Regimental Recon Company OT-65 @ 3 x 0.8 = 2.4
2 x Regimental Recon Company BVP-1 @ 11 x 0.8 = 17.6
1 x Regimental Artillery FAO @ 10 x 0.8 = 8
4 x Regimental Artillery 122 mm H vz. 38 with tow (off-table) @ 8? x 0.6 = 19.2
1 x Regimental Light Engineer team in OT-64 @ 6 x 0.8 = 4.8

This brings our running total to 478.4 points.  I haven't brought along the regimental AA company, since it isn't all that effective, nor the AT company, since it is almost useless in an attack game (it not being vehicle mounted, it needs time to set up).  The recon BVPs could be fielded as cheaper OT-65s, but make reasonable mobile AT-elements in an outfit otherwise sorely lacking them.

Now let's turn to the 5th (BVP) Motor Rifle regiment, which will be Green (except for off-table stuff, which must be graded Regular, since we are not fielding a force from an entirely Veteran or Green Division).  Each battalion looks like this:

1x HQ team in BVP-1 @ 10 x 0.6 = 6
1 x PLDvK vz 53 twin 30 mm AA with towing truck @ 4 x 0.6 = 2.4
2 x vz 52 82 mm M in truck @ 4 x 0.6 = 4.8
6 x Infantry teams in BVP-1 @ 10 x 0.6 = 36
3 x T-55A @ 19 x 0.6 = 34.2

Each comes to just 83.4 points, bringing our running total to 728.6 points.  At just 11 elements strong, they will need boosting with regimental-level attachments to give them some beef; but being Green, will need 3 elements attached for every extra break-point. So let's round out the regiment:

1 x Regimental HQ team in BVP @ 10 x 0.6 = 6
2 x Regimental NBC recon BRDM-2rch @ 3 x 0.6 = 3.6
2 x consolidated Regimental vz. 53 130 mm MRL (off-table) @ 12 x 0.6 = 14.4
3 x Regimental Recon Company OT-65 @ 3 x 0.6 = 5.4
1 x Regimental Artillery FAO @ 10 x 0.8 = 8
4 x Regimental Artillery 122 mm H vz. 38 with tow (off-table) @ 8? x 0.6 = 19.2
1 x Regimental Light Engineer team in OT-62A @ 7 x 0.6 = 4.2

This brings our running total to 788.6 points.  I've missed out the AT company, which is better than that of the 4th regiment, but not all that relevant to a force that will sit in reserve a lot; likewise the AA company is missing.  Note those NBC recon elements.  These are an aspect that are overlooked in the simple lists published in the main rules, because the rules tend to focus on NATO concepts.  Each Czechoslovakian regiment had its own NBC company, including a recon platoon; each Division had its own NBC battalion (also including a further recon platoon); in comparison, the US 3rd Infantry division, for example, didn't gain a single NBC recon platoon until 1980, which counts in MSH as a single stand of trucks!   I take them because they are cheap filler that can boost a battalion's break-point; being recon elements in a bonus, of course (the rest of the unit, like the various decontamination vehicles, can fill no in-game function and are are not represented). 
In my next post, I'll complete our force.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Luke Writes I

Luke has sent me some notes on his list writing thoughts. As he tends to know what hes talking about, I'm posting them unedited. All views in this post should not be construed as being the views of the blog owner, unless they are also the views held by the blog owner. As you were...

With Rhys' permission, I thought I'd post something about organizing lists for lesser WarPac forces under Keith's system.  I'll use my Czechoslovakians as an example, but will include asides at appropriate places to say what I would do for analogous non-Czechoslovakian forces .

The first thing you need to consider in writing up a list is the date. This comes up even before deciding your nationality, because it tells you how many points you have to play with.  Most people seem to like playing in the early 80s for some reason, which means a base list of 850 points in the attack, and 650 in defence.  Since I like earlier rather than later, I'll take 1980 as being the year under consideration - the earliest date at which you get 850 or 650 points.

I'll look at an attack list, because as a WarPac player, you are more likely to be using this than the defend list.  Attack lists are also conceptually simpler - you are always going forward with one; whereas with a defend list, you are only *usually* defending with it; you may also at times be called upon to use it a more aggressive role: in a mutual encounter, or in a spoiling attack (note that Keith's system conceptually calls for separate "Encounter" lists to "Attack" lists, but most people use one and the same; I'll do the same here).

So, we have 850 points of 1980 Czechoslovakians to organize. The next question is what force are we looking at? A first-echelon force, which counts as all Regular in MSH-parlance, or a second echelon-force, which will mix Regulars with Greens? I'll go for the second option - because most people will be a bit wary of using Green troops and may not have considered how they can most usefully  - and gainfully - be employed. 

The next decision is which organizational list we will take our force from.  For Czechoslovakians there are essentially only two real options - a Tank Division, or a Motor Rifle Division.  WarPac Tank Divisions offer less flexibility in planning a force, because the fighting battalions can choose to be based around only two kinds of vehicles: BMPs (or BVPs in Czechoslovakian paralance) and Tanks; whereas a Motor Rifle Divisions has 3 main legs: BMPs, tanks, and OTs - the equivalent of Soviet BTRs.  And in wargaming terms, flexibility is generally a good thing (Poles have essentially the  same choices, but Hungarians don't have access to the BMPs that the others do, so are a bit more handicapped here).

The Czechoslovakians only had two 2nd-echelon Motor Rifle Divisions - the 3rd and the 15th.  My force will represent a force drawn from the 3rd Division, because they incorporated two platoons' worth of T-72s amongst the stand T-55 units, giving you the potential choice of adding some extra beef into the armoured assets - if you take a tank regiment, that is. (The Poles and Hungarians were also similarly provided with two platoons' worth of T-72s for evaluation purposes by the Soviets at the end of the 1970s).

So now let's get down to some design choices.  The first point to note is that I find "B" list options to be not worth the "money" - a 3 VP penalty for 120 extra points just isn't usually worth it in my book.  So the only point in having a B option is when it is a free option - converting a defend list into a spoiling attack list, in other words.  So I won't say anything more about B options.  On the other hand, a 1 VP penalty for 60 extra points - an "A" option - is often very much worth it.  A options are very useful for sticking in stuff that you are likely to use, but only in certain circumstances (and indeed, some stuff is allowed only in an A option).  In fact, we might usefully consider some of these options before we even look at the base list.

The first extra option I consider is counter-battery artillery.  I used to *always* put in some army-level 130 mm M-46 guns for counter-battery work - they are cheap enough - but if you happen to be facing an opponent using M107s, they will probably be destroyed the very bound after they have let off their first fire mission, in which case you probably might as well have not bright them along.  So let's relegate them to an A option - one that I would probably consider taking almost all the time, unless the enemy has a habit of taking M107s...

An A option is worth 60 points, and a full battalion of M-46s don't cost anywhere near that much, even remembering that tows must be purchased for off-table artillery... To round out the points we can include the fighting portions of the Divisional Engineering battalion, which is not something we would normally consider bringing.  This is really small, so can be sent on a flank march to really freak somebody out, who might over-commit resources to counter it before it arrives...  Even this won't bring us to 60 points, so we will add in some ICM ammunition for the M-46s, bringing the total to 60.4 points, which will round down to 60 :-)

4 x M-46 130 mm guns with tows (off-table) @ 13 x 0.6 = 33.6
1 x HQ Light Engineer team in OT-64 @ 6 x 0.8 = 4.8
1 x Recon OT-65 @ 3 x 0.8 = 2.4
2 x Light Engineer teams in OT-64s @ 6 x 0.8 = 9.6
3 x ICM ammunition for M-46 guns @ 3 x 1 = 9

Another thing I relegate to the A options is non-battalion-level AA, by which I mean not only SA-4s and/or SA-6s, but also the self-propelled regimental autocannon-equipped elements (PLDvK vz. 53/59 for Czechoslovakians; and ZSU-23/4 or 57/2 for Hungarians and Poles; these latter countries also have SA-9s that I would normally skip as well).  Most NATO players don't bring aircraft for one of two reasons: a) their aircraft aren't the cheapest (which isn't actually all that relevant - since their high price reflects their high degree of effectiveness); or b) there aren't enough high-value targets in a cheap WarPac2 list to make their points worthwhile to the NATO player.  Accordingly, AA isn't usually a priority for spending points on for a Czechoslovakian player (an A-10 has just taken out 3 of our T-55s? Well, no great harm - it's only just broken even in terms of points! Carry on!)  But we can keep it as an option.  I'll add in what would have been the missing regimental AA companies, plus buy an off-table SA-4 missile unit from the 183rd AA missile brigade (better than an SA-6, as its longer range makes it invulnerable to all enemy artillery). This lot costs 58.4 points all-told:

1 x 2K11M KRUG (off-table) @ 32 x 0.6 = 19.2
2 x PLDvK vz. 53/59 @ 14 x 0.8 = 22.4
2 x PLDvK vz. 53/59 @ 14 x 0.6 = 16.8
A third option to consider is your own air support, because NATO players often skimp on AA assets themselves, given how expensive they can be.  Air support can take three main forms:  attack helicopters, transport helicopters (and perhaps extra troops to be transported in them), and fixed-wing air support.  The Czechoslovakians didn't have enough Hind-Ds in 1980 to equip a MSH flight (at least two models), so I will rule that out as an option, but it is definitely something worth considering if you have access to them. 

I've yet to experiment with heli-borne troops, because the scenario rules restrict you greatly in what you can do with them: any company you land can't contest an objective unless landed at least 3 turns before the end of the game.  It would appear that a heli-dropped *battalion* (of at least 10 stands) can hold, as opposed to merely contest, an objective if landed in the last couple of bounds.  However, this will require a fairly substantial investment in transports and landing troops: one I have yet to try out. But it certainly could be done: Mi-8s can transport quite a lot of guys, so this lot 'the 1st Parachute Battalion from the 22nd Special Purpose Assault Regiment) could be transported in a single lift, for example:
3 x Mi-8 @ 11 x 0.8 = 26.4
2 x Mi-4 @ 5 x 0.8 = 8
1 x HQ stand @ 6 x 0.8 = 4.8
6 x Infantry stands @ 6 x 0.8 = 28.8
2 x AGS-17 AGL stands @ 5 x 0.8 = 8
2 x Vz.52 88 mm M stands @ 3 x 0.8 = 4.8
Alas, this comes to 80.8 points...

So let's turn to fixed-wing aircraft.  You are limited to 4 aircraft.  Although the scenario rules say any non-3rd world country can have an AGC, I have found no evidence any thing resembling an AGC was used by the Czechoslovakians, so we will have to do without.  Czechoslovakians get the following aircraft options in 1980:
Type     DEF      Armament options (cost)
MiG-23   4         Rockets 5 (15); Bombs 4 (15); Cannons 5 (12); SB 4 (24); Nap 4 (21); ICM 4 (18); ARM 5 (21)
MiG-21   3         Rockets 5 (12); Bombs 5 (9); Cannons 5 (9); SB 5 (18); ICM 5 (12)
MiG-15   3         Rockets 5 (9); Bombs 5 (9); Cannons 4 (12)
Su-7       3         Rockets 5 (12); Bombs 5 (9); Cannons 5 (9); ICM 5 (12)
Most have their uses - although a lower (i.e. better) attack factor is, I have found, better value for money than a high one of the same type, so we shouldn't bother with Def 5/Cannon 5 when we have Def 5/Cannon 4 available.  Let's buy a mixture of planes and weapon loads totalling 60 points; all these should find a use any almost any battlefield - we just have to call them in at the right time and place!
1 x Su-7 (Bombs 5) @ 9 x 1 = 9
1 x MiG-15 (Cannons 4) @ 12 x 1 = 12
1 x MiG-21 (SB 5) @ 18 x 1 = 18
1 x MiG-23 (Napalm 4) @ 21 = 21
Note that in practice, you might want to have two squadrons of 2 identical aircraft, as these will be easier to call in that way.

Now these A options all gives us something quite different in terms of capabilities, but they are hardly the real meat of a force.  In my next post, I'll turn to the main list itself.