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"Gaming effectiveness of mortars" Topic

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Personal logo Grelber Supporting Member of TMP15 May 2020 2:27 p.m. PST

A constant Italian theme of the 1940-41 war in Albania is the effectiveness of the Greek mortars. This seemed odd, since the Greeks were one of many nations (including the Italians) that used the 81 mm mortar. The Greeks had received their mortars in the summer of 1940, 4-5 months before the war broke out. They brought in the reservists who would be dealing with the mortars for training that summer.
However, the main reason the Greek mortars were more effective was that their spotters were right up with the infantry, able to see what was needed and where it was needed.
Does anyone use any rules, including house rules, that would reflect one nation's mortars being more effective than another's in a game like Bolt Action or Chain of Command? If so, how do you handle this?


Lee49415 May 2020 2:43 p.m. PST

Any weapon was more effective against the Eyeties lol. There are basically three reasons your mortars can be more effective. They are more accurate and get on target quicker. They have better trained crews and therefore a higher ROF and/or the shell is bigger (size i.e. is a given here so we will rule that out for this answer). Yes my rules allow various rolls to range in and modifiers for damage due to crew capability and training. My rules try to reflect different nationalities capabilities rather then be cookie cutter. Lee

Wolfhag15 May 2020 9:41 p.m. PST

I don't really think it goes by a national doctrine.

However, the main reason the Greek mortars were more effective was that their spotters were right up with the infantry, able to see what was needed and where it was needed.

That sounds like the mortar crew had a direct sight to the target. So the mortar is basically a high trajectory direct fire weapon. This makes them much more effective as a spotter is not needed to relay results and corrections. Being at a shorter range, probably less than 1000m means the crew will have a range estimation error for the initial barrage of about 10% or +/-100m. This is important because it is the initial barrage that catches the enemy unprepared and not in cover.

If they are in rocky and mountainous terrain the defenders will have a hard time seeking below ground coverage and the rocks will generate more shrapnel.

With a range estimation error of +/-100m means with a two-tube battery each tube could each drop 10 rounds in 20-30 seconds with the gunner making a slight correction between rounds to bracket the area. With 20 rounds bracketing the target area many rounds will impact on the target before they seek to cover. Initial barrages that were on target were much more effective than firing multiple spotting rounds which warns the target and gives them enough time to seek cover before the fire for effect barrage arrives.

Any nationality could do this. My rules reflect it. We normally try to put an "X" type bracket (1" = 25m scale) over the target to ensure coverage. With a rapid barrage like this without waiting for the results only the first round really deviates from the aim point. The following rounds would normally land 10m-25m from the previous round to bracket and ensure coverage.

The only problem is with medium mortars anyone within 1000m of the tubes can normally hear the "crump" of the rounds being fired and with a time-of-flight they'll have 20-30 seconds before the rounds start impacting. However, no one will really know who the target is until the barrage hits. That makes for some interesting reactions from the defenders.

I hope that helps.


Martin Rapier16 May 2020 12:40 a.m. PST

If the crew can self spot then their reaction times and fire correction is much faster and easier.

That is easily handled in any set of rules from platoon to brigade level, assuming you normally have some sort of Indirect fire delay.

The downside is lack of flexibility.

Andy ONeill16 May 2020 3:21 a.m. PST

I wouod have thought spotters forward and able to see enemy targets would be kind of usual.

Did the italians keep their spotters back and away from the action?

Starfury Rider16 May 2020 7:49 a.m. PST

It also depends on the communication from the forward observer back to the baseplates. In the early war years that's probably going to be via field telephone, supplemented later on by the smaller wireless sets.

Legion 416 May 2020 7:59 a.m. PST

TMP link

Wolf +1 thumbs up

Also obviously some armies in WWII, etc., were/are not as well trained as others.

Also a mortar crew can fire "open sights" IIRC what is called. old fart [And I was an 81mm Plt Ldr ! huh? ] I.e. can fire directly if they can see the target. I've done it in training … a long, long time ago.

Wolfhag16 May 2020 11:54 a.m. PST

"Open Sights", yes, that's what they called it.

Just remember, LOS works both ways. Muzzle flash at night will give your position away.

Light mortars normally had the spotter within a few yards of the tubes. Heavy and medium mortars were located further back and normally needed an FO with a radio to direct the fire.


Windy Miller16 May 2020 12:48 p.m. PST

If you can see the target from the mortar line it's called direct fire. This is how light mortars (i.e. 2in) are normally used. Medium and heavy mortars (3in, 81mm, 4.2in etc) are generally fired in the indirect role with the Forward Observer calling in the corrections by radio or field telephone. As a general rule medium and heavy mortars will never actually see their targets as they will be too far back and probably behind a hill.

When they are used in the direct fire role the detachment will estimate the range, lay the mortar onto the target and fire a round. This should be pretty much bang on for line but will almost certainly be off for range. They will then adjust onto the target using the initial fall of shot as a reference point. It will normally take two to three rounds to get on target depending on the skill of the det, as corrections for range are much more difficult to estimate than corrections for line. It can be very effective but if you're using this method in defence something has gone badly wrong.

typhoon216 May 2020 1:08 p.m. PST

Does anyone model the steeper trajectory of mortars (and some howitzers) which negates the advantage of reverse slope positions against incoming? Safety from direct fire is only half of the story, hence more frequent use of the tactic as artillery improved.

Legion 416 May 2020 1:10 p.m. PST

Thanks Wolf … I'm old and I forget things … it's been quite a long time since I was an 81mm Plt Ldr. old fart wink

And yes IIRC it was called "Sighting Reciprocity" … If you can see him … chances are he can see you …

Windy +1

UshCha18 May 2020 2:25 a.m. PST

What seems to be missing is mortars in defence in this topic. Typicaly in defence mortars will be ranged in on specific areas long before the enemy arrives. On that basis you can assume more or less immediate fall of shot on the target and the shells will land in a pre-defined pattern. An observer would help to say when, and perhaps deviate the pattern a few yars bit but accurately. Many wargames seem to miss this out again perhaps the dreadfull dice and point systems overtake reality.

This is no diffrent to machine guns where they will have pre defined Final defensive Fire.

Wolfhag18 May 2020 7:36 a.m. PST

Yes, you are right. When a Rifle Platoon took up a defensive position and dug in the Company Weapons Platoon 60mm mortars would be given a Final Protective Fire plot. It would be 25m-50m in front of their positions.

This would normally be fired by a signal from a colored flare from flare gun ordering the rifles, machine guns and mortars to lay down fire in the FPF sectors. I doubt if most players are aware of how that works and I don't see many rules that cover it correctly.


Thresher0118 May 2020 8:05 a.m. PST

I see UshCha beat me to the punch.

Yes, when on the defense for any length of time, mortars and even artillery were pre-ranged in to strategic points, in order to make their fire more accurate, and also to assist in getting the shells onto the target more quickly.

That was especially true in the bocage of Normandy, where most of the casualties suffered by the allies were due to mortar fire. Given the above, and compartmentalized nature of the terrain, that is not surprising.

From what I've read, the Germans had their FOs up front, with radio-telephone lines back to the mortars they were controlling, so they could direct fire in real time.

So, basically, from a rules standpoint, the first and subsequent rounds of fire fall directly on target with no deviation, at points predesignated prior to the game/battle, whenever desired.

Legion 418 May 2020 1:27 p.m. PST

Yes it is SOP if you are in a defensive position for any length of time. You will go thru the all the procedures for setting up a Deliberate Defense, etc. Including FPFs, Registered/pre-plotted targets/areas, clearing FOFs, assigning sectors, etc., etc.

Wolfhag18 May 2020 6:25 p.m. PST

This is another reason you hold your fire and do not needlessly shot because you'll give away your position and a minute later be greeted by a mortar barrage, as it should be.

In our games new players are confused when their experienced opponent ceases shooting in a firefight and has his squad hunker down taking full cover. They soon understand why.


Legion 419 May 2020 7:24 a.m. PST

Yes, heavy weapons draw heavy fire too … So you don't open fire until the time is right. E.g. FPF, when the enemy crosses into the FPL intersecting MG fires, etc.

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