Arty Control

WW2 – it’s an artillery war. And in that light, I’ve been addressing Mission Command’s methods for enabling players to control artillery. Forward Observation Officers, or others, who want to call in shoots of artillery batteries have to communicate (in other words “do a Communicate action”) to make it happen. The time delay between request and shells in the air depends on the efficiency of that communication, and in Mission Command we’ve previously handled it by messages with a delay in turns run by players, umpires or both, often relying on memory and the accuracy of individuals. As you might imagine, this has resulted in muddle, even with our one-message-box-per-turn experiment in our last game.

Now I’ve decided to try a lesson from the Euro game book – a ‘player board’. We have a simple artillery control board for the commander of the artillery. It lists the batteries down the side and the turns along the top, so that a very brief order can be written straight into a cell. Each battery has a wooden cube on the left hand side of the board to indicate whether the battery is Moving, Preparing or Ready/Firing; and these must be carried out in that sequence.


In this example 12th Field Regiment (Self Propelled 105mm guns, known as Priests) started the game On Call to the FOO of 11th Battery. It’s now Turn 3, so the turn at the top of the board is circled. 11th Battery has been directed to fire at 026040 with 11th and 16th batteries. This order will have come in, and been written on the board, on Turn 2 at the latest, as artillery cannot fire on the turn the order is received (in Mission Command, a Shoot action is always the first action of the two actions an element does). The shoot is planned for 2 turns duration, then the two batteries will prepare for fire elsewhere. 43rd Battery has been ordered to prepare to bombard the same target. Bombarding is the most intensive, highest rate of fire and takes 2 turns to prepare. When the other two batteries Prep on Turn 5, 43rd will bombard the same target. Meanwhile the medium guns of 5th Battery, 15th Regiment have been carrying out a rolling barrage close by.

If desired, you can also control battalion mortars through the control board, as shown. Mortars don’t need a turn to prepare, so the player has crossed out the Prep box for the mortars.

The current status cubes give a quick overview of what’s happening now, and they also remind you that you have to Prep after Moving the battery.

My plan is to use this for our game on 7 May to see if it works ‘live’.


2 Responses to “Arty Control”

  1. 1 John D Salt April 26, 2016 at 18:09

    How long are the game turns? I would have thought that planned dire missions, especially DFs, should fall in the same turn they are ordered (remember British and Commonwealth FOOs, unike those of other nations, issue fire orders, not fire requests).
    The sort of grid you have there could be used to prepare a fire programme, which is the place I would expect to see barrages. Impromtu tasks would normally be simple concentrations.
    I don’t understand why it takes an extra turn to prepare to fire at the intense rate; either the necessary quantitiy of shell has been dumped beforehand, or it hasn’t. And “bombard” shouldn’t be used to refer to a rate of fire, in RA parlance it means a counter-battery shoot.
    As we’re in Normandy, what rules are you going to use for Mike, Uncle, Victor and William targets?

    All the best,


  2. 2 benthamfish April 26, 2016 at 18:59

    Many thanks for your excellent comments, John!

    Game turn durations are variable – averaging 10 minutes, so an hour is about 6 turns. We try to avoid being definitive, because it messes with movement rates and speed of actions. Instead we have the concept of a ‘hot situation’ and a ‘cold situation’ to give the flavour of the intensity of close engagement. In ‘hot’, elements can do the Move Once action, that is move up to normal movement rate (100m for infantry). In ‘cold’, they can do the Move Twice action, double normal movement rate. Elements can take 2 actions in a bound, so infantry could move anywhere from 100m to 400m in a bound depending on circumstances. This is all ‘on-table’ movement, whereas out of contact movement can be more.

    Planned fire missions come in when they’re specified in the fire plan. For on call DFs in British / Commonwealth practice they come in as immediately as possible, that is, on the start of the next turn. The reasoning is: a communicate action is usually the last action of a bound, and fire action the first, therefore the quickest response is start of next turn for the shoot. We didn’t want to have fire in the same turn, because it plays havoc with the rest of the communications and firing mechanics.

    You’re right in respect of the grid. I envisage it will be used for simple fire plans (programmes if you like). It’ll also be used to record which batteries are available, which moving, which firing, etc, as a quick reference. We often have C-in-Cs running the artillery when we have only small teams, so a quick and easy reference is very useful I think.

    Re Bombardment. I take your point. This was an attempt to standardise across many circumstances. It might be better for us to have bombardment (in Mission Command’s sense) possibilities specified in the scenario details rather than as a freely available option. In effect for Normandy it would make it an Allied thingy. For terminology, we use ‘bombardment’ to mean highest rate of fire in general across all WW2 theatres and periods, so we’re not using the term in an RA sense.

    I’d not done anything specific for Mike, etc concentrations. I’ll have to sort that out in the British “doctrine” section. I guess the easiest method would be to have standard areas for the concentrations, and work out how many rolls for effect for each type. It would require the British team to have the artillery ready-and-available. I guess there’s not much of a game in being a William or Yoke target though!


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