Saturday, March 30, 2019

Horsemen of the Apocalypse: Cavalry in Twilight: 2000

Silesian Lancer with Rifle & Lance 
(from The Black Madonna)
One of the thematic elements of the Twilight World is the scarcity of gasoline, combined with the difficulty of distilling alcohol-based fuels which has led to a shift of forces from conventional mechanized cavalry to traditional horse cavalry.

This is particularly common in the various Poland-based modules, where there is a strong tradition of local cavalry units or lancers and many of the Soviet tank based forces have been converted to cavalry, drawing on their Cossack roots in some cases.

While researching the other "mini-game" articles (Fuel, Maintenance, Foraging & Harvesting, Fatigue etc), I realised that using animals in Twilight: 2000 requires an odd collection of mini-games in itself - almost all the rules for animals are different to human characters and they only partly relate to the rules for vehicles. This includes travel, food, maintenance & upkeep, and to an extent even combat.

This post will act as an index for relevant canonical rules across the core book and any additional rules from the various supplements as well as relevant commentary.

Although the v2.2 rules cover horses, mules, oxen, camels and even elephants oddly - however for the purposes of this post I'll be using only horses, mules and occasionally oxen (for carts and wagons) in the worked examples as they're the ones most relevant to a starting Polish campaign.

Horses in Twilight: 2000

So let's start with the basic statistics of horses (and mules) as per their "Vehicle Card":

Compare this with the "Typical Adult Human" Vehicle Card summary I developed:

Why Ride when you can Walk (or Drive)?

Honestly, initially, I wasn't really sure apart from the coolness / thematic factor.

In most games, riding a horse or being mounted provides a significant advantage in one or more areas common to adventuring or other benefits to a character including:

  1. Increased carrying capacity (Load)
  2. Overland travel (Travel Move and forced march)
  3. Mounted combat (Combat Move and fighting mounted) 

Of the three above, there are some gains for the first, but really only a small benefit for tactical movement (twice a human on foot) and no major benefit for mounted combat (in fact there are only penalties to fire while mounted and/or moving with no charge benefit). Regardless, compared to most RPGs, a horse seems less appealing, but I think there is a reason for cavalry which becomes apparent.

Horsemanship & Careers

Note: although the v2.2 skill is referred to as "Horsemanship", in many places the text refers to the old "Riding" skill from the earlier edition - the two are interchangeable and this likely reflects poor editing.

Only a limited number of characters will have access to Horsemanship (aka Riding in v1.0):
  • as an initial Background Skill
  • as a Secondary Activity
  • as part of National Military Academy Education career (officer training)
  • as part of the Entertainer, Idle Rich, or Farmer Civilian career
There is no Military career that provides access to the Horsemanship skill.

The Horsemanship (Riding) skill is used for the following in Tk2 v2.2:

  • Saddle-break unbroken horse (FORM, failure results in injury to the rider)
  • Assess the condition of a horse before purchase (DIFF)
  • Conceal condition of a horse before the sale (FORM)
  • Mount or dismount an animal (AUTO regardless of skill)
  • Riding a walking animal (AUTO regardless of skill or if untrained)
  • Riding a trotting animal (AUTO; Agility: EASY if untrained)
  • Maximum safe speed: 20 + Horsemanship (Riding)
  • Riding at full gallop (DIFF per turn; use Agility if untrained & mishap on Catastrophic Failure)
  • Firing from the saddle ("marksmanship" or Horsemanship Asset, whichever is *worse*)
  • Animal maintenance (EASY, 20 minutes once per day)
  • Recover a lame animal within a week (DIFF)

The Cavalryman Career (optional)

As noted, there's no official "Cavalry" Military Career - the return of cavalry being relatively recent in the Twilight World. I'd suggest adding the option to the basic Infantry and Support careers as allowable for the last pre-war term and the "War Term" only, but if a specific "horse cavalry" career were to exist it might look something like this:

Cavalryman (Enlisted) 
Entry: CON 6+, Horsemanship 2+; last pre-war Term and "War Term" only.
1st Term Skills: Horsemanship 2, Observation 1, Small Arms 2.
Subsequent Term Skills: Armed Martial Arts, Autogun, Forward Observer, Grenade Launcher, Ground Vehicle: Wheeled, Horsemanship, Observation, Small Arms, Survival, Tac Missile (US only), Unarmed Martial Arts.
Promotion: 6+, DM +1 if INT 7+.
Contacts: One per term, military. Roll 1d10 for 8+ for the contact to be foreign.
Special: begins play with a broken horse and horse tack (saddle, bridle, straps, etc.)

Cavalry Officers would be similar except entry needs plus OCS, military academy, or commission. For 1st Term Skills add Leadership 1 and drop to Small Arms 1;  for Subsequent Term Skills add Instruction, Leadership, Persuasion and Navigation. Otherwise the same as for most other "Infantry" Officers: Promotion: 6+, OM +1 if INT 7+, and/or if a graduate of Military Academy; Contacts: Two per term, military. Roll 1d10 for 7+ for the contact to be foreign; Special: as above, begin play with a broken in horse and horse tack (saddle, bridle, straps, etc.)

Polish cavalrymen are sometimes referred to as Hussars (Lancers) and add Armed Martial Arts 1 (lance). Soviet cavalrymen are loosely termed Cossacks (even if not ethnically Cossack) and increase their Horsemanship to 3. German cavalrymen are referred to as Uhlans (also confusingly used in Poland apparently), but have the same skills as above except the US-only Tac Missile skill.

Maintenance, or the relative lack thereof... 

Now, this is when the overland travel benefit of animals comes into play.

Unlike vehicles, animals don't need any fuel, nor do they require specific "maintenance" from a character with the Mechanic skill - except for the minor upkeep required for carts or wagons (Mnt: 1 only, readily achievable without major issue). Furthermore, unlike humans, animals do not suffer from fatigue nor need to sleep to recover from hard work such as hauling cargo overland. Unless broken, an animal that suffers an injury or goes lame can still travel with the group as long as it is not carrying a load and is fed.

What animals *do* need is food - in the form of grazing (2 periods per day) and additionally for horses and mules, grain. This allows them to move cross country every day as long as they have sufficient grazing time and grain (if applicable eg horses, mules).  Oxen are notable in that they don't need grain, which makes them much less expensive to maintain in terms of upkeep as there is no need for cargo space to be sacrificed for their food - the average horse needs 84kg of food for a week, a mule needs 70kg for a week, whereas an ox need only graze making them a preferable draft animal. 

In reality overland travel is limited by the Fatigue of the human overseers to 2 periods per day, similar to travelling on foot, as even riding in a cart or wagon still counts as "hard work" and contributes to a human character's need for sleep to prevent Fatigue penalties. The benefit of using animals as opposed to travelling on foot is the resulting extra carrying capacity.

Given the scarcity of fuel and/or usual need to stop and distill fuel for a few days to a few weeks or so unless reserves are carried, the benefit of animal transport is that cargo (such as food supplies, heavier equipment and weaponry, or even towed artillery) can move steadily but slowly over the map rather than in an interrupted fashion. It's the reliability that makes the difference - this becomes more clear when the manageable risk of "going lame" is factored in (see below).

This may help explain the frequent conversion of units to cavalry when fuel is in scarce supply.

Going Lame (Feeding & Maintenance)

This is the key "mini-game" mechanic used for animals used as mounts or beasts of burden such as horses, mules, oxen and, in non-Polish campaigns, camels and elephants potentially. Instead of Fatigue, animals use a mechanic similar to the potential breakdowns for vehicles that incorporates not only "maintenance" but also starvation, overburdening, increased periods traveled and the effects of force-marching.

This is referred to here in the post collectively as Going Lame, but is somewhat confusingly referred to as "Maintenance" in the core rules. It is in effect "animal breakdown" if that makes sense.

In effect this is a "unified" single mechanic for animals, but unfortunately has to be used in conjunction with the rules for characters travelling (Food & Foraging and Fatigue) so it doesn't really streamline in play and becomes a separate aspect to track for groups with a mixture of vehicles, animals and humans on foot.

For ease of use, the insert reproduces the relevant rules:

Animals, like vehicles, require "maintenance" if they are to perform properly. 
Feeding: All draft animals need to graze for two four-hour periods per day. Horses and mules also require grain if they do any work that day (including being ridden). The amount of grain required is given on the Food Consumption Table on page 273. If they do no work, they need not be fed grain, but must spend all day grazing to make up for it.  
Each day in which an animal does not receive enough to eat, it receives a hunger level increase of one. If it is also forced to work, it receives a hunger level increase of two. All animals start at a hunger level of 0. If an animal's hunger level reaches 20, it dies. The animal's hunger level also increases its chance of going lame (see below). For every day in which the animal gets all the food it needs and is not required to do any work, it receives a hunger level decrease of one.
Care: Animal "maintenance" is a task (Average: Riding) and takes 20 minutes per animal after its work is completed each day. Failure to conduct animal maintenance (or a failed roll) causes the animal to suffer a hunger level increase of one, but this addition does not occur more than once per week. (The animal is not really hungry, but the effects and remedies of inadequate care are the same as for hunger. For simplicity, they are treated the same.)
Going Lame: Each day in which an animal travels, it may go lame. A 1D10 roll of 1 indicates a potential injury. For each potentially injured animal, roll another D10 for 1 or less. Subtract one from the die roll for the following: each hunger level, each forced march, each period burdened, and each period traveled that day in addition to the normal allowed number. If the PC rolls less than -3 on the second die roll, the horse has either broken a leg or collapsed from exhaustion and, in either case, must be put out of its misery. Any other result on the second die roll indicates that the animal has gone lame, but can recover if treated properly. An animal carrying no load at all has no chance of going lame.

So looking at this in practical terms, for any animal carrying a load:

  • 1 in 10 chance per day of travel of potential injury (regardless of periods traveled)
  • Roll second d10 to determine effect and modify as follows:
    • -1 for each Hunger Level
    • -1 for each Forced March
    • -1 for each period Overburdened
    • -1 for each Extra Period traveled
  • The result of Going Lame is then as follows:
    • Score of 2 to 10: animal is uninjured
    • Score of 1,0, -1 or -2: animal has become lame
    • Score -3 or less: animal is broken 

Any animal with a Hunger Level of 4 or more has a risk of being broken and any animal with a Hunger Level of 13 or more is automatically broken if they have a potential injury. For an animal carrying a load and travelling this is equivalent to 2 days without food or 6 days without food, assuming appropriate care is otherwise possible (although this would only increase the Hunger Level by 1 over the week which is effectively 2 days and 5 days still). 

Keeping an animal at a Hunger Level of <4 seems to make a lot of sense given the disastrous consequences - basic care and upkeep at the negligible amount of 20 minutes per day is essential and should be considered automatic unless the group has such a large number of animals that the time factor becomes relevant eg 12 or more horses (4 hours or one period of work caring for the animals) or lacks a character with the Horsemanship skill.

An animal can be either burdened or force-marched but not both; a burdened or force-marched animal can be made to travel extra periods however, but this is limited by the Fatigue on the humans in the group to a maximum of four periods per day in practice with penalty (see the discussion in Overland Travel below).

The Limit of Carrying Enough Feed

Unfortunately, using the base Load figures above, a horse can only carry 10 days of food (120kg, 12kg per day) for itself and a mule only 8 days of food for itself (80kg, 8kg per day) - the number of days is doubled if overburdened. This uses up their available capacity to carry other equipment and/or food for the group.  Groups using horses or mules therefore probably need at least one cart or wagon to carry food for the animals (and humans) - a single cart can carry 41 days food for a horse and 69 days food for a mule in addition to any food the animal can carry itself without being overburdened. 

Oxen, while much slower at a Travel Move of 5/5, have the compensation that they only need to graze rather than eat reduces accumulation of Hunger Level, their risk of going lame is much less (only affected by extra periods of travel or travelling while overburdened) and their carrying capacity is therefore preserved. An ox cart has the potential advantage of large carrying capacity for food for any other animals but slows the whole group to the oxen's rate of travel - equivalent to half a 20km hex per day unless an extra period is travelled.

Going Lame seems to be critically dependent on an animal's food supply more than any other factor if a group takes appropriate precautions and is sensible about their expectations in terms of forced marches and burdening. Although the risk of potential injury is low (1 in 10) it is constant and unlike vehicle breakdowns can only be prevented by not loading up the animal at all - an animal in poor condition has the same risk of a potential injury but if this occurs a much higher chance of going lame or broken. I'd note that this is pretty much the opposite of the vehicles rules.

If an animal does go lame it can still travel with the group (unlike a vehicle) but consumes food and can't carry any load or be force-marched, limiting the group significantly. It's not a permanent condition, but can greatly affect a group's travel efficiency unless the animal is abandoned:

Recovery: An animal can recover from going lame. In order to recover, it must not carry any load and may not be force-marched (although it can move at the normal travel speed). It must receive its full care and be well fed. If so, it will recover in two weeks automatically. There is a chance it will recover in one week if the character caring for the animal does his job well (Difficult: Riding). If any of the above requirements for recovery are not met, the animal is permanently lame and is of no further use (except for food or sale to the gullible). 

Improved Carrying Capacity (Load)

So let's now look at Load then in further detail, referring to the relevant Vehicle Cards above.

The average Load of a human character (assuming 30 point build) is only 36kg, max 60kg. 

The Load of a horse is 120kg base, so even if unridden, 4x the Load of the average human isn't bad and if overburdened this becomes 240kg, but compares perhaps less favourably with a motorcycle (300kg), UAZ or civilian car (500kg), 3/4 ton truck (750kg) or a HumVee (1250kg) although all of these options need fuel, whether by accessing reserves or distilling as the group travels.

This is enough to carry most heavy weapons, including some mortars, although a weapon cannot be fired from horseback as there is no real equivalent to a pintle mount or a tripod.

For other animals, an ox has a base Load of 70kg, whereas a mule 80kg. 
Note: the average weight of a human character is 76kg (max 116kg), so depending on whether you read that a horse's Load of 120kg must include its rider (not particularly clearly specified anywhere), this leaves minimal extra useful Load for a ridden horse without overburdening to 240kg - a decision which comes at the cost of the risk of going *lame* (see section below). I'd suggest this load is in addition to a *single* rider, whereas a second rider is counted against the animal's Load.  
A cart (500kg, 1 animal) or a wagon (1000kg, 2 or 4 animals) can be utilised by either horses, mules or oxen without seeming to affect the Load of each animal - oxen *double* the load of a cart or wagon but halve the speed and have a notably lower Load than a horse so pulling a cart or wagon doesn't seem to be dependent on an animal's Load which is somewhat confusing. By the RAW, an ox cart (or wagon) should travel at 10/5 but an unhitched ox travels at 5/5 - it seems impossible that an ox would actually move faster when hauling a cart or wagon so this should probably be reset to 5/5 above).

"The mule is listed with an 80kg load, but per the World War I era Handbook for Quartermasters, a mule's typical load was 250 pounds, or ~113 kilos. Thee J-118 Escort Wagon was a 2-mule wagon that had a typical load of 3000 pounds (1360kg), and on flat-and-level road could carry 5000 pounds (2260kg). For horses, the US Cavalry Manual of Horse Management recommended loads be limited to 20% of a horse's weight, so that 350kg horse would have a load of 70kg (or, conversely, the 120kg load would belong to a 600kg horse). Some sources suggest that can co up to 30% of body weight, but that puts more stress on the horse according to veterinary studies." 
- Vespers War (Juhulin Forums, March 2019)

Compare to a UAZ (500kg), 3/4 ton truck (750kg) or a HumVee (1.25 tons).

Animal and Starting Vehicle Loads

So for single animals, the amount able to be transported is low, then carts and wagons enter into play, although it's really only oxen harnessed to carts or wagons that have the haulage power to compete with light vehicles - an ox cart can haul just over 1000kg, an ox wagon just over 2 tons.
As per "Going Home" page 37, animal drawn rail "cars" carry twice the load of their conventional versions, so a standard cart has a capacity of 1 ton and a wagon 2 tons. This is doubled to 2 tons and 4 tons respectively for oxen drawn rail "car" versions.

Overland Travel by Animal

Interestingly, the Travel Move for a human and a horse (or mule) is actually the same.

That is just 20/20 or one 20km hex per 4-hour period travelled.

Animals: Horses, elephants, and oxen should not be made to travel more than two periods per day; mules and camels should not be made to travel more than three periods per day. They can travel more than that, but they suffer an increased chance of going lame (see below). Horses and mules may be force-marched. If force marched, a horse's travel distance is multiplied by 2, and a mule's by 1 1/2However, this also increases the animal's chance of going lame. Elephants and camels may not be force-marched (they refuse to move when too tired).
Any animal except camels and elephants may be burdened (carrying up to twice its load). Unlike a human, the animal's travel distance is not reduced, but burdening increases the animal's chance of going lame. A burdened animal may not be force-marched. Camels and elephants refuse to move when overloaded. Animals pulling wagons or carts may not be force-marched or burdened, but may be forced to travel more than their usual number of periods. Camels and elephants are not usually used to pull carts or wagons, and no harness has been developed for them to do so. 

The main difference is that animals *don't* become Fatigued - this will be the subject of a whole separate post ultimately, but consider the following:

Humans need at least 2 periods of sleep if they perform more than 3 periods of hard work (includes marching or riding) per day, so if a human rides, marches or performs other heavy work for more than 4 periods they suffer at least 6 Fatigue Levels (the extra period of heavy work adds 2 fatigue levels, one for the work itself and one for the resulting lack of sleep). As most humans have average Attributes of 5 (although some individual scores may be lower) and each Fatigue Level reduces *all* Attributes by 1, it is possible to cope with 4 Fatigue Levels in some cases but apparent that dropping to 0 or below and becoming unconscious is inevitable at greater levels of fatigue and therefore becomes the rate-limiting step for overland travel regardless of how the group travels.

For practical purposes a human can realistically travel for only 2 periods consistently as they need to sleep for at least two periods and can perform only one period of hard work compensated for by another period of sleep before Fatigue starts to set in. If a human travels for 3 periods, they still need 2 periods of sleep which leaves only one period of 4 hours for animal maintenance (20 minutes easy work),  setting up camp and miscellaneous tasks or else they begin the next day with a Fatigue Level and resultant Attribute penalty.

So even if the animal is barely affected eg a mule, travelling for 3 periods is the practical maximum for an animal to travel when in a mixed group with humans and/or vehicles. Force marching doubles the distance travelled for horses to 40/40 or 30/30 for mules but at the increased chance of going lame so even if well fed 1-2 days of travelling by forced march is the maximum without significant risk. Oxen can't force march and are better suited to support trains where reliability and load trump the need for overland speed.

Note: a human also needs food - 2kg of "civilised food" / grain per day or 3kg "wild" food in addition to the food required for their mount, as per my previous post. Whether a human's individual Load and/or actual weight counts against the animal's Load is somewhat unclear. For other vehicles the weight of a passenger (and their individual Load) is irrelevant for Crew and Load but the RAW have many examples of using different rules for vehicles compared to animals.

Mounted Combat: Hussars, Cossacks, Uhlans or Dragoons?

So this doesn't really seem to be a thing, mechanically at least, in Twilight: 2000. Unlike many other RPGs with a fantasy or medieval setting, the use of horses or similar mounts in combat isn't given a lot of space, while combat mounted on a vehicle is reasonably detailed.

Sure, horses are faster than humans tactically - a mounted soldier travels at a Combat Move of 30 when trotting which is an automatically successful Horsemanship check and equivalent in speed to a human running. Unfortunately, however, firing from the saddle uses not only the *lower* of the two assets (STR: Small Arms vs AGL: Horsemanship) but also is factored according to the mount's movement rate so a soldier cannot aim while their mount is trotting and cannot fire at all if their mount is running (galloping). Furthermore, travelling at more than "safe speed" requires a Horsemanship (Riding) check and risk of a mishap unlike a human running on foot. 

There's no apparent mechanical distinction for mounted melee combat other than noting that a mounted warrior against a dismounted opponent is unlikely to hit the footman's legs but no real strong mechanical comment about the horseman's head being difficult to reach. 

"For the height difference, I'd use the Punch hit location table from James Langham's Unarmed Combat, and say that a mounted attacker hitting an infantry defender rolls 1d4 for hit location, while the infantry attacker hitting a momunted defender rolls 1d8+2 (and flips a coin for which arm if it comes up an arm)." 
Vespers War (Juhulin forums, March 2019)

Statistics for spears (to be used as lances) are given but there's no comment on their use on horseback or in cavalry charges. A charging animal does provoke a panic check with or without a rider which is a potentially useful shock tactic against infantry or civilians, although it is unspecified in the RAW whether the animal needs to gallop or can just trot. 

Edit: certainly has to be a gallop to provoke panic and charging usually inflicts *double* damage - a base spear as per the Melee Weapon chart inflicts 1d6+(STR+2)

"One rule that folks often forget is Target Movement (table on page 215 of T2k v2.2 book; and more on page 204). This has significant implications on combat. A target's combat speed of 30m/turn imposes a +1 level of difficulty increase. DIF becomes FOR; FOR becomes IMP. A human reaches this threshold by running; a horse by trotting. A target horse at a full gallop (60m/turn) forces a +2 levels of difficulty (DIF becomes IMP), making hits very unlikely in ranged combat. So a skilled Silesian lancer could charge an opponent, closing the distance between them quickly, engage the enemy, and impose that panic roll as well." 
- Wayne Gralian (MeWe group, March 2019)

The rules for firing while mounted on horseback (use *lower* asset of STR: Small Arms etc or AGL: Horsemanship (Riding) differ to the rules for firing while mounted on a vehicle including a bicycle, motorcycle or boats (just add one difficulty level to the task), adding complexity to the whole system and everything is scattered across several pages.

Overall, a human that is mounted can move as fast as they could otherwise run by trotting without a check but can't take an aimed shot *or* can choose to gallop (possibly charging at an opponent on foot with a melee attack with increased chance of hitting the head and upper body) without firing as long as they make a successful DIFF Horsemanship (Riding) check.

From what I've researched, including this excellent resource by James Langham, it seems that for most mounted troops, horses are intended for transport (of riders but also for heavy equipment) and "cavalry" as such dismount to advance and then fight as regular infantry, leaving the horses tethered safely to the rear - this makes sense realistically and is backed up mechanically in the rules. Horses are used to rapidly position or withdraw troops, almost like a "battle taxi" such as an APC but without the additional supportive firepower. This approach has more in common with the original definition of a dragoon, although later forces with that designation did fight as light cavalry with straight swords.

Interlude: Tachankas 
A Tachanka is a horse-drawn machinegun, particularly popular with Pact forces, such as a DhSK or KPV mounted in a small cart or wagon facing to the rear away from the horse(s). Optionally a medium PK machinegun, AGS-17 automatic grenade launcher or a recoiless rifle / anti-tank missile system may be mounted instead. 
Treat as a Wagon (T2k v2.2, p68) with a driver and a machine-gun team for a Crew: 1+2 and reduced residual Load: 500kg. These are usually unarmored, although some may be fitted with a gun shield facing to the rear with an Armor Value of 2, but are not usually fully enclosed unless they represent a variant of light Fahrpanzer (see images below and later post - usually heavier guns were used in the WW2 era), making them effectively a light turret for hit location purposes.
Note: the 120mm Valisek autogun, 120mm towed mortar, and the example towed howitzers (122mm and Rapira-3 artillery) are considered towed weapon systems, not tachankas per se but are not uncommon in Twilight cavalry units.

Ukrainian Tachanka without gun-shield
A Fahrpanzer on its carriage

Original simple horse-drawn Fahrpanzer


So in conclusion, lore and thematic factors aside, cavalry do make some sense in the Twilight world, particularly in Poland where there is a long history. Rather than modern day mounted knights, however, the horseman of the apocalypse use their horses to force march overland, haul heavy equipment including artillery (or salvaged tank guns) and then dismount to fight as dragoons once in tactical position. Food becomes their major limitation rather than fuel if using horses, although units using oxen as draft animals have much less limitation but move significantly slower.

Special thanks to all those that have written on this concept before, whether in posts on the Juhulin forums, other sites or through commentary on the old G+ and current MeWe platforms.


These will be added to as I collect other articles and links.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Train of Thought 2: Return to Kalisz Part 1 (Twilight: 2000 railroad notes)

This is the second post to cover likely rail routes from Central Poland to the relative safety of "the German Border" at Frankfurt, based on extrapolations from Wikimapia - like the first post, it contains potential *spoilers* for material in the T2k v1.0 module "Going Home". This section follows on from the "Lodz Hinterland" and details the area immediately to the west on either side of the main line that loops west-northwest to Poznan, mainly because that's a potential direction Wayne's group or any other train based group will be heading unless they decide to turn back north towards the main Warsaw-Poznan-Frankfurt line section which I'll likely deal with in a further post...

So the area near Kalisz is an interesting area by the time of October 2000 and quite different from that presented in the starting adventure Escape from Kalisz - most of the initial forces that encircled the US 5th Division have either withdrawn (the 89th Cavalry Division to the north, the 124th MRD south to Piotrkow), settled in rival cantonments maintaining an easy truce (21st MRD and Polish 10th Tank Division), deserted (the Lask and Zgierz Milicya's from the Polish BGBs, marauders from the 9th Tank Division) or been broken up and survivors dissolved into remaining units (12th Guard Tank Army, 4th Guard Tank Army). 

I've marked the default start for "Escape from Kalisz" (just southeast of Ostrow) and also my proposed "Amphibious / M113 Start" start option (near Dobra) in a teal blue to add some context and to help with later development. Wayne's group originally started from near Lask, now the base for the former 11th Polish BGB, now the Lask Miliciya.

Two of the Polish Border Guard Brigades have converted into Milicya or militia units (Zgierz and Lask), there are some marauders from previous Soviet divisions still in the area, and reading through the module notes, the 12th Guards Tank Division was completely shattered.

Hexmap detail of above Wikimpi excerpt area

I'm thinking there's going to be a lot of ruined tanks and other armoured vehicles (BMPs, BTRs and LAV-25s or similar) around Kalisz - the 21st MRD started the battle with 30 tanks and was reduced down to 8 rapidly. That's only the one unit. The 10th Polish Tanks Division lost about 20 tanks in the battle and the number of US tanks is difficult to estimate but is likely comparable, not to mention all the support vehicles destroyed or captured. Sure the tanks would be mostly stripped and salvaged, but they are heavy and difficult to move en bloc without the right equipment so I'd think that Kalisz and the area along the Kalisz-Sieradz Road, in particular, is likely littered with abandoned metal corpses. Maybe not all of them are beyond salvage, but that's several *dozen* tanks at least concentrated in a comparatively small area.

So my first thoughts on looking at the two maps in terms of a group travelling by train:

  • The Warta River presents a significant obstacle at its rail bridge at Sieradz
  • There's actually a large body of water here, Lake Jezorsko, that was a bit of a surprise
  • Two small road bridges near the small town of Warta are now apparent 
  • Ruins of an old medieval castle just east of the river near Sieradz
  • The Ruins of Kalisz sit directly on the likely western rail route 
  • The Prosna River flows northwest through Kalisz past Pleszew joining the Warta north of Jarocin
  • The Ner River loops northwest from Lodz to skirt Uniejow and join the Warta
  • The Soviet 21st MRD cantonment at Ostrow can easily interdict the line
  • The remains of the Polish 10th Tank Division at Pleszew could be bypassed

Really not much in the way of military installations in this area by comparison:
  • Zdunska Wola has a large node station and nearby locomotive depot at Karsznice 
  • There are extensive railway yards in Ostrow for salvaging rolling stock and even locomotives
  • There was a radio operator specialist training school in the northern outskirts of Sieradz
  • There's a Polish air base just to the south of Lask 

It's worth considering where the main units were previously ie. at the time of the Battle of Kalisz.

  • The 20th Tank Division originally controlled the area east of the Warta as far north as Unejow and east to Lodz, but have drawn now back to Lodz for the coming Winter although they still send small patrols from a base at Szadel up the eastern bank as far north as Uniejow.
  • The 21st MRD which was spread out south of the Kalisz-Sieradz road from Ostrow in the west to the Warta in the east and further south of the above map section is now consolidated at Ostrow and controls the southern area of the western third including Kalisz and can readily access the middle third of the map via the rail bridge, including the strategic town of Sieradz.
  • The Polish 10th Tank Division based at Pleszew are relative newcomers to the area, driving into the area northwest of Kalisz only in the last days of the battle and are now occupying the northern part of the western third of the map in contest for Kalisz with the 21st MRD but hemmed in to the east by the Prosna.
  • Finally, there are the forces involved in the battle but no longer present - the Soviet 89th Cavalry Division at its southernmost extent only occupied Turek and the shattered Soviet 124th MRD held the area off the map from Zloclew to its current winter camp at Piotrkow near the Belchatow coal mine (to be detailed in another post).

Rivers and Bridges

Effectively the two significant rivers running south to north, the Prosna (west, hexes 6515 and 6616-18) and the Warta (east, as marked), divide the map above into thirds, each third with its own dominant group of residual Polish or Soviet troops. There are only a few minor rivers in the area unlike the Bzura catchment to the east I've already discussed - the Bzura itself does loop just off the east of the above map and the Ner flows in the northeast corner (hexes 7115, 7015).

Although many of the Soviet APCs and IFVs (eg the BDRM, BTR and BMP series of vehicles) are amphibious, the majority of the troops, horses and common "soft-skinned" vehicles and trailers (except for the MAV jeep, PTS-M carrier and MT-LB tracked prime mover) are not so capable, making the two rivers a significant obstacle to any large troop movement and the small number of bridges critical strategic points.

In Escape from Kalisz, the road bridge at Uniejow is noted to be destroyed and originally guarded by troops from the 20th Tank Division now wintering in Lodz. It's unlikely to have been rebuilt and although there are a footbridge and a couple of minor road bridges in the nearby area these are unsuitable for troop movement let alone heavy vehicles. The small town of Warta has a bridge for the two-lane provincial road as it crosses to the south of Lake Jezorko, but this is only suitable for light traffic and I'd suggest it has been destroyed during the July fighting or by the 124th MRD's troops as they withdrew from the area around Sieradz. 

It's really Sieradz therefore that is the main crossing point (see below) - there is another set of secondary crossings near Wielun to the south, one of which to the northeast likely at Osjakow on the Wielun-Piotrkow road the engineers of the 21st MRD are noted to trying to repair. To me this suggests that all the other minor bridges in the area have been destroyed, although none of them look more than 2-lanes or capable of supporting more than light vehicles.

Sieradz Town Detail 
(Wikimapia excerpt) 

Sieradz, the Key to the Warta

As the town has not only the rail bridge over the Warta to the north but also the provincial road bridge from Zdunska Wola to the east, with another bridge for the broad S8 motorway from Lodz to Wroclaw that bypasses to the south, it's easily the most important point for controlling passage across the Warta and a key strategic location up for contest.

This town was the main rallying point of the 124th MRD following their crushing defeat by the 1st Brigade of the US 5th Division along the Kalisz-Sieradz Road in July. The 124th has since moved on to Piotrkow, leaving the two immobilised T-80 tanks and some very disgruntled townsfolk, including a militia of about 100 men who refused to join Major Bologov's exodus to their southern winter encampment at Piotrkow off the map to the southeast. As the 124th MRD moved out, it's likely that the 21st MRD will have moved a detachment in to control such an important strategic crossing even though their relationship with the locals will be tense as when the unit originally passed through they seized most of the town's food.

Although the two immobilised T-80s from the 124th will have had their ammo and machine-guns removed by the departing troops, for the 21st the western placement of the tanks makes little sense by this time of the year. The engineers have therefore removed the turrets using a "Beglianka" BREM-L (BMP-3 based recovery vehicle with a 5-ton capacity crane) and emplaced them to the east as TOTs in the loop of the Warta at Staromiejski Park near the footbridge, to cover the road to Lodz that runs along the Adam Mickiewicz park.  The northern emplacement can cover the rail bridge with some difficulty (less than 1km with their 450m base range 125mm guns ie medium range) but the sentries will not be expecting anything other than light civilian rail cars even though the 21st likely has access to various "hi-rail" road-rail vehicles such as converted BTR-80s and trucks to control access to the line and trade with or demand tribute from nearby communities (see below).

From a defense perspective, given the nearby encampments across the Warta of the remnant 20th Tank Division in Lodz and the 124th MRD in Piotrkow to the southeast, I'd expect the main road bridge to be guarded and rigged with explosives on the western end as it crosses the Warta, perhaps with lighter emplacements and mobile "Fahrpanzer-style" portable guns using either lighter "tank" turrets armed with autocannons and heavy machineguns salvaged from BMPs, BTRs or similar.

In accordance with standard military doctrine, the easy route across the raised 4-lane S8 motorway bridge will be lightly guarded at an advance post at the turnpike to the provincial road on the eastern side but heavily mined and rigged to explode to prevent passage of significant armor into the 21st zone of influence. 

Proposal: the Dominance of the 21st Motorized Rifle Division

Note: Wayne and I have had a discussion over on the MeWe "Twilight 2000" group about the likely dominant force in the Kalisz area and he prefers the Polish 10th Tank to be dominant for specific campaign reasons related to his group. I'd argue however that the setup around Sieradz still makes sense for a detachment of the 21st MRD to be in control as it's such a critical crossing point on the border of the major cantonments in the area. Even if a group decides to bypass the Kalisz area and turn north from near Zdunska Wola, an encounter at Sieradz seems inevitable. 

To me the lay of the land and recent positions and strengths makes Major General Rubachenko's 21st MRD likely to be the dominant force west of the Warta, being not only the largest troop collection (twice the size of the 20th Tank Division remnant based in Lodz, larger than the mostly tank less Polish 10th Tank Division) but also more familiar with the whole area, roads and the local communities despite being non-Polish. By utilising the existing rail network, they could create an efficient transport backbone to range far and wide for food, supplies and other trade goods from the communities across the local area while minimising fuel expenditure.

It's noted in the original Escape from Kalisz adventure that the 21st MRD had hospitals, supply dumps and even a battalion of engineers in the relatively calmer southern areas of the battlefield which to me suggests they have maintained a greater level of organisation and support structure than the other units.

In particular, the engineers (65 men) were noted to be attempting to restore the bridge between Wielun and Piotrkow and have access to heavy equipment suggesting that the unit has ready access to recovery vehicles such as BREM recovery vehicle variant BTR and BMP based vehicles with cranes. They may even have access to a heavier T-64, T-72 or T-80 based BREM-64BREM-1 or BREM-80U vehicle to allow salvaging actual Soviet main battle tanks or have captured a still operational and invaluable M88A2 Hercules from the 5th Division rear echelon making them capable of recovering US M1 series tanks.

It's this specifically mentioned group of engineers and their equipment that to me would be the key for providing the 21st with the tools and weapons needed to dominate the area through salvaging not only their own vehicles and converting them to run on rails as "hi-rail" variants but also the ability to access all the US equipment ruined and/or abandoned in the defeat of the 5th Division.

Even without access to the depot southeast of Zdunska Wola, the 21st would have plenty of access to rolling stock, cranes and conversion equipment from it's base at Ostrow given the town's extensive rail depot (see Wikimapia detail). Combined with it's engineering capabilities, it should be able to use the railway from Ostrow through to Sieradz for efficient transport and capitalize on the abandoned military equipment in the ruins and along the Kalisz-Sieradz Road which runs close to the track for much of it's length.

If anyone other than the player's group is likely to have a functional "train" (even if it's just a convoy of rail cars with converted BTR-80 "hi-rail" vehicles at either end and flat car mounted older tanks such as T-64s) it's likely to be the 21st MRD given their support capabilities and relatively intact organisational structure - imagine the group's surprise at facing off against another armoured and armed train heading in the opposite direction to them...

This is the first post about the Kalisz area - looking into this has produced some really interesting ideas I'd like to explore properly in greater detail but I wanted to get something out there for enjoyment and feedback as it's been a while since my last significant post. 

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Tanker TOTs (Summary Vehicle Card for Twilight: 2000 Tank Turret Emplacement)

This is likely to be part of a longer post about tank turret emplacements (German: "Panzerstellung", Russian: "Tankovaya Ognievaya Totschka" or TOT), but as I haven't posted anything significant for a while, I'm adding this here for the time being...

This is the first turret emplacement I've built stats for, using the mostly retired T-34 turret (likely available in old storage facilities and military warehouses) repurposed for static defence. The first image of the wooden log and soil bunker is from Neil Short's excellent "Tank Turret Fortifications" book but isn't actually a T-34 turret, it's an old Panzer turret, unfortunately. 

The second image is an actual T-34 turret mounted on a concrete emplacement from this page, which details the concept a bit further. Wood and earthen emplacements would be quicker and easier to construct, the main limiting step being transporting via truck and then positioning the turret in place:

T-34 Turret on a truck being positioned for use as a TOT emplacement

Addit (16th March 2019): since posting this about 6 weeks ago I've had a lot of feedback and have therefore updated the "Vehicle Card" with a less powerful auxiliary generator as suggested by in particular "Gelrir" / Michael B.'s comments in this forum thread. There's also a couple of relevant articles for this topic:
And also this detail of the actual turret from the first link above: