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"Immediate Local Counter Attack" Topic

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UshCha16 Nov 2018 3:38 p.m. PST

One key approach to countering a local loss of ground in an assault was to launch a local counter attack while the attacker was still reorganising after the assault. My own reading was this this was not that uncommon and was often successful. The issue has arisen in the analysis we are conducting for issue 2 of our rules. In hindsi ght no too many local counter attacks have been conducted, in part because though some vulnerability is present it is perhaps less vulnerable than it should be. What is the general opinion of how likely a successful counter attack by a similar sized unit would be on the disorganised attacker.

Thresher0116 Nov 2018 4:09 p.m. PST

From what I've read, the Germans used this tactic quite successfully, over and over again, in WWII.

Not sure how to model that though, for either side.

I have the impression that the Germans would hold back, let the allies move forward some to gain ground, but lose men and materiel, and then attack them from the flanks, when they were weaker, exposed, and more vulnerable/disorganized. Clearly, if the allied attack is deep enough, and not an even, linear advance, their flanks will be immediately exposed to defensive fire, and sweeping counterattacks.

Achtung Minen16 Nov 2018 4:34 p.m. PST

Standard procedure among the Finns in the Winter War and Continuation War as well.

Blutarski16 Nov 2018 5:07 p.m. PST

Thresher01 wrote -
"From what I've read, the Germans used this tactic quite successfully, over and over again, in WWII."

The scheme of immediate local counterattack was a central feature of WW1 German defensive doctrine from 1916 onward, whereby company-sized forces were held in local reserve to perform exactly that function.


Mark 116 Nov 2018 5:53 p.m. PST

My readings indicate that this was almost a canonical doctrine of the German army, in both WW1 and WW2. When a position was lost, a counter-attack was to be launched IMMEDIATELY to regain it.

In another thread I have repeatedly criticized the WRG Armor and Infantry rules, but … stretching a bit here to remember … as I recall the 2nd edition of those rules included some specific mechanisms by which units which had assaulted enemy positions were dis-organized (had reduced combat potential) for some period of time after achieving their objective. Basically they were stuck in some "mode" that limited their actions in a defensive fight, and could not simply adopt a "defend" mode at will. I think that effect, however it is achieved (by whatever mechanism in the rules) might be a useful construct.

As I understand it, what made this tactic work was not just that they counter-attacked immediately, but that they counter-attacked with a force, however small, that was held back as a reserve specifically for this purpose.

In game terms, that would mean that the counter attacking force was not disorganized, while the assaulting force, now suddenly thrown on to the defensive, was. But this doesn't mean that the force ejected from their positions are necessarily any quicker than the assaulting force in recovering from their ordeal. Although, with the Germans in particular, this might have been a factor as well. Still, there was ALWAYS a reaction force held back, and German commanders had the discipline (as well as doctrinal training and organizational support) to not commit their reaction force, their last reserve, to preserve a position, but rather to commit it to re-take a position.

Interesting gaming potential …

(aka: Mk 1)

Joe Legan Supporting Member of TMP16 Nov 2018 6:50 p.m. PST

Are you considering this a separate scenario or part of the original scenario? How soon is the immediate counterattack?


Thresher0116 Nov 2018 8:00 p.m. PST

I guess it depends.

I have the impression that sometimes they'd wait until the local allied attack was finished, and in others, the counter-attack might begin even as the allied forces were still moving forward.

I imagine the latter would be even more unnerving.

Is this primarily a German tactic?

I don't recall reading about most allied armies/troops doing this in WWII, or later, but maybe I've just missed those accounts.

I do recall Patton wanting to wait until the Germans really over-exposed themselves in a deep pocket, so he could hit them deep in their flanks and rear, to crush, or encircle them. With America's logistics capabilities, I imagine our units were far better at doing that than the Germans who even late in the war were still dependent upon horse-drawn wagons for a lot of support.

UshCha16 Nov 2018 8:22 p.m. PST

Mk1, while our current system has some measure of disorganisation post an attack it is a simple task to enhance that impact, sounds like it's worth some play testing. We have no intention to massively change the rules so it may be the case of seeing if the increased penalty is better or over the top and hence no real gain. There are enough rules issue 2 is trying valiantly not to add more rules, more rules slows the game in many cases so does as much harm as good.

Keith Talent16 Nov 2018 11:52 p.m. PST

As Mark said, it was almost a religious duty for the German commander to counter attack. In practice, it often made them highly predictable. Not every German commander was a military genius, they were often poorly executed and simply resulted in heavy casualties the Allied units were expecting them, and responded accordingly.

David Brown17 Nov 2018 1:13 a.m. PST

Keith T,


The German tactic of an agressive counter-attack to recover lost ground was a double-edged weapon.

It could, and was, on many occasions highly successful.

But as the war progressed the Allies knew what to expect and could prepare for it. And the forces used by the Germans were often thrown together at short notice and had little operational cooperative experience.

It's great when it works, but being predictable in warfare is not a recommended tactic, which often lead to these attacks being successfully countered with high German casualties, perhaps unnecessary casualties. (Almost similar to the Russian method, too rigid and too predictable!)


Andy ONeill17 Nov 2018 2:34 a.m. PST

Part of the reason a counter-attack could work is the post combat post adrenaline exhaustion.

As others have said.
If you knew it was coming and it was badly done then the counter attack could be just an easy artillery or machine gun target.

Thresher0117 Nov 2018 2:46 a.m. PST

I'm thinking too, that having conducted an attack, and firing off a lot of ammo, the attackers would be ill-prepared for another sharp fight, when low on bullets.

Same may apply to tank gun shells too, though probably less of a concern than for the infantry.

Skarper17 Nov 2018 6:18 a.m. PST

To a degree it is not that the attackers are especially vulnerable, but that defenders who had time to site their weapons, select cover, recce approaces, post pickets and replenish ammo are going to be much harder to shift than troops who just arrived on the scene.

Speaking to the predictable german counterattack being a double edged sword I remember one case where Canadians took a church building and immediately got set to repel a counterattack, which they did with devasting effect.

Im not sure how best to model this. In tactical rules i disfavour ‘modes' and try to let the detailed state and position of the troops produce the results desired.

Blutarski17 Nov 2018 6:48 a.m. PST

Attacker has stalled and his position is known to the opponent and almost certainly within range of defender's artillery and support weapons. Attacker is tired, low on ammunition, perhaps lost or disoriented, perhaps out of comms with higher up, most likely without friendly artillery or heavy weapons support, possibly without satisfactory flank protection, possibly lacking adequate hard cover facing in the necessary direction (or worse, caught in the open).

What we do know is that the overall success of immediate counter-attack tactics was such that it remained part of German doctrine over at least two world wars.


Legion 417 Nov 2018 7:49 a.m. PST

We were taught to always designate a Reserve Force if at all possible for a counter-attack. And it was mentioned based on the German tactical experiences, etc., in WWII.

And as always based on terrain and situation.

Personal logo COL Scott ret Supporting Member of TMP17 Nov 2018 10:31 a.m. PST

For the attacking force consolidation on the objective is key. There are units that have a plan and SOP who would rarely get surprised and others who would not have practiced this would likely lose the position that they had just taken. An idea might be to have certain units predisposed to one way or the other (Rangers very likely- new lower quality units less likely)

Lion in the Stars17 Nov 2018 1:26 p.m. PST

IIRC, the Germans also plotted artillery fire directly on each one of their positions.

UshCha17 Nov 2018 2:27 p.m. PST

Well all very interesting, without massive specific changes it looks like in our rules if the attaker had a hard fight to take the position could then be adjusted such that an immediate Local Counter attack with similar forces would be similarly a hard fight but successful. However any delay would rapidly reduce the chances. In addition on reflection it does depend, as has been bought to my attention by Blutatski that the nature of the defencees may be key. If positions were more vulnerable, possibly by design, from the rear, they would be more vulnerable than others.

It is interesting that some 400 games on by the authors such things are still in debate. I guess that after years of playing toy soldiers with rules optimised for requirements other than simulation and a the range of strange wargames traditions, we learn means we have had to unlearn lots of daft things, while learning what was actual practice and sometimes even then effectiveness of the real tactics is up for debate.

So it does beg the question, By the end of ww2 and beyond fighting positions needed overhead cover, making them more constrained, so am I right in thinking that in general they were optimum for fighting in one general direction and not as good from say the rear. It would not be the first time poor understanding of the "engineering" of defences were causes of poor simulation not the basic rules once "fixed" to eliminate "toy soldiers" requirements from the game.

I see that there may be lots of new scenarios where we get to play out new and varied tactics, ten years on the the fun juts keeps coming!

Blutarski17 Nov 2018 2:39 p.m. PST

One of the more obscure points brought out in the book "Pillboxes of the Western Front" was that firing ports of a pillbox would normally be oriented to deliver frontal and flanking fire, but not typically fire to its rear. Also, the entrance to the pillbox would usually face the rear. If captured and put to use by an attacker as more than a simple shelter, such factors could pose a problem for the new occupants.

The devil is always in the details.


Thresher0117 Nov 2018 3:10 p.m. PST

"IIRC, the Germans also plotted artillery fire directly on each one of their positions".

Yep, and in the field out to their front, to the limit of line of sight, I suspect, with special attention paid to crossroads, hilltops, etc.. All well measured, and pre-ranged in.

ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP17 Nov 2018 4:38 p.m. PST

As noted, the Germans used the tactic a lot. Early in the war it was very effective but as the Allies got used to it, they would make sure their artillery zeroed in on where the Germans would counterattack from and they would often crush the counterattack with heavy casualties. By late in the war high ranking German commanders were ordering their subordinates to stop doing this because it was bleeding them white, but the tactic was too deeply ingrained and it kept happening.

Legion 418 Nov 2018 7:53 a.m. PST

"IIRC, the Germans also plotted artillery fire directly on each one of their positions".
Yes, that is true in almost all situations. We did the same during some operations too. For counter attack purposes or e.g. leaving an ambush location after checking the enemy dead, etc. for intel, etc. And on locations like routes of ingress and egress, on the Kill Zone, your flanks, etc.

Jeffers18 Nov 2018 9:07 a.m. PST

Not sure if this helps, but in my rules I have 'dug in', for slit trenches and the like, and 'prepared' for stronger positions. If either are taken by the enemy, they are removed from the table. This reflects the fact that they are pointing the wrong way, easily targeted by the original occupants' support etc. Buildings are left as is, assuming they are placed for non-military reasons. The result is that attackers have to sit in the open, move on or spend time digging themselves into more suitable positions.
It's a simple rule that needs no record keeping and benefits players that maintain reserves or momentum.

Wolfhag18 Nov 2018 10:41 a.m. PST

In the 1970's assault training, we were trained to assault through the position and then immediately hit the deck in an improved position waiting for a counterattack. The squad leader would re-distribute ammo to make sure we all had enough.


UshCha18 Nov 2018 2:05 p.m. PST

Jeffery, can't agree with that, may be a rules thing. In many of the accounts I read in the event of incoming troops dive for the nearest cover often an empty enemy position or at least in 1 case a trench used as a latrine (no going to add basic rules for this very specific scenario rules maybe :-) ). Therefore positions need to be in place. Agreed not all troops may find a position depending on how many assult ed and the availability of enemy alternate positions and communication trenches.

William Ulsterman18 Nov 2018 6:36 p.m. PST

I agree with what others have said about the nature of the defences the German army would hold – their defensive line was often not a line at all, but a series of lightly held but hardened defensive localities, maybe containing around 40 men only. But with their minefields, high ROF Mg and generally excellent mortar support, they would have had plenty of troops left for a counter attack. Not so sure that over head cover was seen as a must have by the Germans. Much of the defensive fighting by the Germans in Normandy was done from very improvised positions with fox holes predominating over any bunkers (once away from the coast) and these tactics proved to be very effective for the Germans.

Keith Talent19 Nov 2018 12:05 a.m. PST

That's the point, I'm not so sure that it was such an effective tactic for the Germans in NWE. When used by very well trained troops with adequate artillery against a less prepared enemy it had always worked well for the Germans, by 1944 they didn't always have those luxuries. Also, when they utilised armour for their counters, suddenly all the advantages they had defending against armour were passed to the defender.

Andy ONeill19 Nov 2018 3:06 a.m. PST

I think foxholes are likely to be in less advantageous positions when attacked from their "rear".

If you don't have fatigue and ammo mechanics in your rules then just saying an attacker can't re-use defences makes sense to me.
Their "digging in" process is actually more about re-organising and re supplying in this instance.

Jeffers19 Nov 2018 10:09 a.m. PST

Absolutely. I like to keep rules VERY simple, so I try to combine multiple activities into an easy to remember mechanism. If I were attempting platoon-level combat (or skirmish)I would do something more detailed (indeed, I have done with 1/6 figures). As I said, it gets the right result for me for the sort of games I play now; others are free to disagree.

Thresher0119 Nov 2018 10:46 a.m. PST

Probably the easiest way to do this is to lower the attacker's morale rating, if/when they are immediately counterattacked by an organized force from the defenders.

That way, they're more likely to be forced to retreat, or break, when unexpectedly opposed by the enemy.

Legion 419 Nov 2018 3:37 p.m. PST

As Wolf said, you assault thru the enemy positions. Then reconsolidate on the OJB. And Prep for counter attack. Flanking and attacks from the rear were a standard tactic and preferred.

You wouldn't want to do a frontal attack if at all possible. But no matter what type of offensive or defensive operations. You always want/need a lot of supporting fires.

William Ulsterman19 Nov 2018 4:14 p.m. PST

Keith – in Normandy the Germans were consistently outnumbered, out bombarded and out air supported. They were using an army that mainly relied upon horses to move any weapons heavier than a medium mortar. Up against a fully motorised foe, with massive fire support, they managed to stop them for two months and inflict heavy losses. I struggle to think how this lacks effectiveness, given what the German army was up against?

Keith Talent20 Nov 2018 10:23 a.m. PST

Yes, funnily enough I know all that (read all about Dupuys CEV etc). My point is that I think they would have been even more effective if they hadn't always slavishly mounted counter attacks in response to allied efforts regardless of the situation. A little bit more circumspection might have been a better course. By always immediately counter-attacking they sometimes played precisely into allied hands by allowing the latter to utilise their superior levels of ordnance against an attacking opponent.

Personal logo Whirlwind Supporting Member of TMP22 Nov 2018 9:41 p.m. PST

The Germans counter-attacked more often because they used relatively weaker defence lines (from usually having fewer troops overall). The Western Allies (having more of them) used more deeply echeloned troops and had more plentiful formation-level artillery support so it was much harder for the Germans to penetrate to a depth where counter-attack was required. The German way was probably more efficient (fewer troops to defend a given portion of line), the Allied way slightly more effective (less chance of the attack actually working in the first place).

Martin Rapier23 Nov 2018 2:06 a.m. PST

The easiest way to model this in a game is to make any infantry units which win an assault "disorganised" in some way (or whatever the equivalent is in your rules).

It is a universal tactic, that is what reserves are for, but often hard to get the timing right in real life due to inevitable friction.

As for the Op, between equal forces? Likely hood of success, 80%. It is effectively a surprise attack, which generally triples the combat value of the surprising side.

Legion 423 Nov 2018 3:21 p.m. PST

but often hard to get the timing right in real life due to inevitable friction.
Very much so … that is why you training & rehearse … then do it again … repeat …

It is effectively a surprise attack, which generally triples the combat value of the surprising side.
An attack should genrally be 3 to 1 and if the enemy is dug in 5 to 1. Of course in many cases you may not have those numbers. But you can add to your chance of success by proper use of supporting assets. When employed at the right time and location(s), etc.

However Surprise is one of the Principles of War. And that can give you an edge. Again if the attack/ambush is executed properly.

Legion 423 Nov 2018 3:22 p.m. PST

but often hard to get the timing right in real life due to inevitable friction.
Very much so … that is why you training & rehearse … then do it again … repeat …

It is effectively a surprise attack, which generally triples the combat value of the surprising side.
An attack should genrally be 3 to 1 and if the enemy is dug in 5 to 1. Of course in many cases you may not have those numbers. But you can add to your chance of success by proper use of supporting assets. When employed at the right time and location(s), etc.

However Surprise one of the Principles of War. And that can give you an edge. Again if the attack/ambush is executed properly.

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