PGIII Logistical Aspects of Maneuver
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by Philip Nelson

Hmmm.... which unit should I use now?

Logistical Aspects of Maneuver in PG3-SE, Part One

In other articles we have discussed, among other things, good defensive formations. But it can be difficult to follow those guidelines if your units cannot be moved far enough. Firepower is important; but if you cannot get it to the front lines, it is not worth much. This article will discuss the logistical aspects of maneuver in PG3-SE, of which there are three key areas: the movement qualities of equipment, deployment, and traffic control. Mastery of this should allow you to have your units available more often when you need them.

Taking advantage of the movement characteristics of equipment has already been detailed somewhat elsewhere, but let's take another look at it. The standard movement range of ground units is four hexes; and the standard number of movement attributes is three for units that use transports, and four for units that are self-propelled. If something is used with less capability in any of those areas, especially range - there should be a good reason, even if it is to only have fun using a Maus. :-) Using slow but sturdy units like the Elefant in defensive scenarios like Kiev can be a good plan, for instance. Conversely, using light but speedy units like the BT and Pz II tanks can also be effective. Movement attributes are not nearly as important as range because of the diminishing effect of multiple moves, but they can be handy. I would not, however, pass over the SU-152 artillery piece simply because it only has three movement attributes.

Now, movement type is an extremely important characteristic of units. Most units with trucks are road-bound, with terrible off-road capabilities. But because the best all-around artillery must be transported by trucks, the movement of formations should often center upon them. That's not as bad as it sounds, since towed units can move nearly as fast on the road as cross-country units can off-road; their use just requires a bit more pre-scenario planning. The best air defense units can be viewed the same way as artillery, though the 88mm with its half-track transport is a notable exception. Also note that of the Russian self-propelled AA guns, only the SU-37 and Lend-Lease M17 have cross-country capabilities. The Katyusha self-propelled artillery units are limited to roads as well, though they have a movement range of five.

Another factor to consider is equipment specials; something which mostly affects infantry selection. For instance, in a Germanc ampaign you might find yourself needing to choose between Fallschirmjager, Stosstruppen, or Pionere. The first are paratroopers, which can certainly be handy; but they do not have the engineering ability or cross-country organic transport, while the other two do. Stosstruppen are almost always at ten-strength, while Pionere are usually at eight-strength - a significant difference. But Pionere have all-terrain movement as well as the bridging ability, not to mention air transport.

Thus in a scenario with an isolated objective or one in which you wish to be able to send speedy reinforcements to one of multiple fronts, Fallschirmjager would be a good all-around choice. Pionere would be good as well, though a bit more limited in certain respects since they can only fly from airfield to airfield. In a scenario with rivers passing through key areas, Pionere would be the prime choice; and in a scenario with open terrain, Stosstruppen would probably be the best pick (presuming paratroopers weren't needed in either case.)

When deciding the units you will use for a scenario, keep these factors in mind; and it should make the other logistical considerations easier to handle.

Logistical Aspects of Maneuver in PG3-SE, Part Two

Proper deployment is key to mastering the logistics of maneuver in PG3-SE. A good setup can make it easy to advance an army across the battlefield in formation, while a bad setup can cause debilitating traffic jams. Because much depends on the layout of each scenario, the following are simply general guidelines to good deployment strategies.

First, be aware of your units' movement characteristics and the terrain they will need to cross. Deploy road-bound units on the roads leading to their task force's assigned objectives. Artillery should be placed on the front line ahead of everything else, while air-defense should be placed in the back. However, if there are more than two towed artillery units assigned to a task force and only one road, it might be a good idea to place a towed air-defense unit just behind the first two artillery pieces, depending upon its range. Basically, you don't want to leave your lead units outside the protection of air-defense. Road-bound anti-tank guns or infantry should be avoided; they can easily get in the way of the far more important artillery pieces and air-defense guns. But if they are necessary for the success of an operation, deploying them behind the artillery is probably the best plan. Note that Katyushas are an exception; while road-bound, they have a movement range of five- which means that they can be deployed in the back without much trouble.

Cross-country units should be deployed as close to their assigned objectives as possible, though the terrain should be considered first. They can be used effectively from a line covering a fairly wide area as long as rivers, forests, swamps, and other terrain features are not in the way. In those cases, you can sometimes use equipment specials to your advantage - such as placing all-terrain infantry in hexes behind forests, which leaves clear deployment hexes open for other units. Paratroop infantry or air transportable units can be deployed out of the way at or around airfields. But as is usually the case, if there are still too many units for a single line it will be necessary to deploy units at least two lines deep. Self-propelled artillery should almost always be deployed at the front line, depending upon firing range and overall speed. Infantry and armor should in most cases have a front-line representative as well, while air-defense units and recons are normally best in an initial rear-guard role.

In general, the slower units should be in the front line; and the faster units should be in the back. Of the units that are equal in regards to speed, the best units should be in the front. Note that 'slowest' can include the number of movement attributes and available actions, though range is the most important factor. Stosstruppen, which have three movement attributes, are slower than a Tiger- which have four; but because they both have the same range the Stosstruppen are only slower by one hex overall. However, if the Tiger is being commanded by a two-star leader, it will not be able to keep up with Stosstruppen commanded by a three-star leader. The overall difference will be two hexes; but even a one hex difference can add up to a great deal by the end of a scenario. And in order to keep them out of the way, low-level leaders should sometimes be deployed behind other units, depending on the circumstances. Basically, if a unit cannot move very far and still attack, it is just going to take up valuable space on the front line as long as there are better units available.

Airplanes are much simpler to deploy than ground units, but there are still a couple tricks that can be used when doing so. First, aircraft can be deployed as needed during a scenario, which means they can be deployed in the closest airport hex to an assigned target. It can be frustrating and wasteful to come up one hex short; and that tactic can help avoid those situations. Also, airplanes can be deployed from any friendly airport, as long as there are no adjacent enemy ground units. In some scenarios in which an enemy airfield can be taken on the first turn, it can be good to hold off on deploying say a fighter or two until it is captured. That essentially gives those airplanes more range and actions, allowing them to be used more efficiently.

Note that both of those tactics are possible because aircraft deployment hexes are always available at airfields as long as there are no adjacent enemy ground forces. As such, those tactics do not really apply to ground units because their front-line deployment hexes are only available at the beginning of a scenario. Afterwards they must use pre-designated areas which are usually farther away from the conflict. If an army is being forced backwards, however, the first tactic might apply; but the second never does.

Logistical Aspects of Maneuver in PG3, Part Three

In this article we will begin delving into the tactics of traffic control. It is assumed that the general guidelines for good deployment have been followed, and that enemy force concentrations are known. Because most recons are highly mobile, it is fairly easy to keep them from interfering with troop movements while scouting; and fighters, of course, can scout without impeding the progress of ground units. Some recons are road-bound, however, such as the BA-10 or PSW 222; and they should be treated more carefully.

In clear terrain where there are no enemy defenses, it is generally a good plan to advance a task force beginning with the units in the lead. That allows each unit to use its full movement potential. Road-bound units should almost always be kept on roads; and while cross-country units can use roads, they need to be kept out of the way of road-bound units. All-terrain infantry such as Pionere can be advanced through places where most other units cannot move quickly, leaving space for other units on roads and in clear terrain. The main concern is making certain that roads and narrow corridors in forests, mountains, and rivers are not blocked to units that could have otherwise moved farther; but traffic snarls can still be a problem in open terrain for large battle-groups.

If there are units in a task force that are significantly slower than the others, units that are advancing on the same point from a different direction, or simply a great number of units that need to advance through restricted terrain, experimentation is in order to make certain that an important unit is not blocked. I say experimentation because it is difficult to predict how such a situation will be; figuring out the proper order in which to advance units so as to avoid losing time can be a puzzle with widely-varied solutions.

To experiment, move one of the affected units, and have a look at how far the others can move. (By the way, don't select the other units- you want to be able to cancel your first move if necessary.) If the unit you just moved is keeping another from using its full movement capabilities, then either move it to a different hex, or move it after the other units have moved. Because units can move multiple times in a turn, it is possible to avoid many traffic jams. Note that learning how to do that without canceling moves is a good idea.

In cases where it is impossible to keep from losing movement, make your best judgement according to the situation; but usually it is best to keep your artillery moving as fast as it can. In fact, it can be good to leave towed artillery in trucks in order to advance them as far as possible. Of course, they need to be well-protected; and parking a fighter over them in such instances is a good plan. Maintaining a defensive perimeter is still important, and preparing for assaults on enemy defenses can be a critical factor to consider as well when determining which units should be placed ahead of others. Air-defense and recons, at least, can be left in the back.

At any rate, those are some guidelines that should make it easier to ensure that key units are available when they are needed.

Logistical Aspects of Maneuver in PG3, Part Four

Traffic control applies to air units as well as ground units; but it involves, of course, a different set of problems. The main issues are how airplanes are resupplied, and where they are left at the end of the turn.

The first is in regards to airplanes blocking the resupply hexes around a friendly airfield from access by other planes. This occurs when an airplane has only enough movement left to reach one side of the airfield, but finds a friendly airplane that cannot move any farther already occupying the hex. It's not a problem that comes up often; but if it does, it can cost one or two actions the next turn as well as the first movement of the airplane. Since that is usually the only movement that can be done at 100%, the range of that plane the next turn is severely limited. And all of that can be a high price to pay in terms of available firepower.

Multiple available airfields can solve the problem, but that is something of a luxury. The best way to avoid a traffic jam is to not send any airplane on a resupply mission until the end of the turn, and then test to see if it is an issue. If it is, resupply planes accordingly, using hexes at the back of the airfields for those planes with extra movement, and the closer hexes for those that can just make it.

If there is no way to avoid a conflict, make your best judgement. Factors such as remaining ammunition, range, and current usefulness should be considered. For instance, if you have a badly damaged fighter and an out-of-supply bomber, but have already won the air superiority battle, then allow the bomber to be taken care of ahead of the fighter. (And if you're concerned about points, hide the fighter until the end of the scenario :-).

The second issue involves where air units that do not need to be resupplied are left at the end of a turn. In a one-front battle, somewhere within range of the anticipated field of operations for the next turn would be appropriate. In a two or more front battle, then somewhere within range of all fronts would be excellent if possible. Otherwise, you will need to prioritize your battles. For instance, if one task force is en route to an objective, while another is almost ready to assault, then make the air assets available to the second.

If two task forces are ready to assault, then once again make your best judgement. The one with the toughest job ahead of it should usually get the most air support. One thing to note is that attacking an objective with an airfield instead of one without can be helpful, as the air units can quickly resupply and prepare for another attack if the airfield is captured and cleared.

Logistical Aspects of Maneuver in PG3, Part Five

Not only does traffic control apply to the movement of units from one place to another, it also applies in the midst of the heaviest battles. Choices made during firefights affect the ability of troops to quickly advance to the next objective. And as usual, the use of artillery is the most important aspect.

Before assaulting enemy defenses, scout carefully and assess the situation. The key is determining whether or not you have a chance to break the enemy defense and neutralize the tough units. If not, a careful approach is in order; but if so, then do not be concerned initially about protecting your artillery. Drive them as far into the enemy defenses as is convenient - right up to the edge of a Maus if need be - and suppress the key units. After the enemy defenses are destroyed or neutralized, those artillery pieces will be in a better position to continue an offensive; and they should, of course, be protected by your advancing troops. One exception to such aggressive use of artillery is a narrow front, where your front-line troops will need that room to fight.

Another type of decision that affects the availability of units is which to use in individual combats. As a general rule, use the unit farthest behind to attack. For instance, if you have two Blitz tanks- both with a movement of four- and one is one hex from a unit waiting to be blitzed, while the other is three, use the one three hexes away to do the job. That allows the other tank to more efficiently use its first movement, perhaps to kill another unit it could not reach until the first had been destroyed. To further refine the rule, use the unit in the back that can use most, if not all, of its next movement allotment to reach the enemy. And if necessary, expand it to include multiple movements.

One corollary to the rule is that it can be good to place the attacking unit on the available hex that is the closest to the next objective, thus using movement even more efficiently.

Another aspect of the choice of which units to use is prospective damage. Using a unit that will not be as likely to be damaged as another is intuitive; but one important thing should be considered- the number of movement attributes. For instance, it might be better to assault a partially-suppressed infantry unit in a city with a tank supported by infantry rather than using the infantry on its own. The reason is that while both could lose a movement attribute, all infantry other than Russian only have three movement attributes, while most tanks have four or more. Thus if an attribute were lost, the infantry unit could lose two hexes of movement, while the tank would probably lose only one. (Note that a similar rule applies to firing attributes as well.)

Something else to keep in mind is that you do not want to block key units from doing their jobs. For instance, killing units with the last actions of tanks is often good, but not if they are then left so that an Engineer cannot advance next to an objective's defenders and blast them out on the last turn. Or to take an example from the air side of battle, using an air-unit's last action to strafe a unit you will need to attack with another air unit is not a good plan.

One more note: refitting a damaged unit can come into play in regards to the logistics of maneuver. Refit a unit because they have damaged movement attributes only if they will gain more in movement than they will lose by sitting still one turn. Of course, if they are so heavily damaged that they won't be worth much in battle, then by all means refit them (unless you care about points and do not need the resources).

Anyhow, following these general guidelines should allow an army to move through combat and on to the next objective more quickly. And that's all for this series on logistical aspects of maneuver in PG3-SE.

Philip Nelson

Panzer General!