I really want to understand this series...

Discussion relating to Kharkov: Disaster on the Donets

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I really want to understand this series...

Postby Bacillus » Mon Jun 22, 2009 1:48 pm

Hello! I am wondering if someone can give me some advice on how they learned the SSG system for Kharkov. Let me start by saying I have bought all the SSG games in the past w/ the exception of Battlefront, and I love the art and the feel of the series as I have read many AAR's. But no matter how much I have tried, whether it be Korsun, BIN, and BII, I just don't feel I "get the system". My attacks seem poor, my understanding regarding OP's is not seemingly conducive to successful combat operations, and air interdiction never seems to choke/hinder my AI opponent. The combat advisor is deceptively simple as it takes some deep thought to properly distribute just enough combat factors to attack an area of the line w/o stripping the cupboard bare so to speak in other sectors. I just don't seem to possess a proper methodology to be able to attain the right number of attacking units while maintaining a proper attack tempo. Part of the problem could be that I am slightly impatient, since other wargames include the Close Combat series and the HPS ones. HPS games tend to give me wrist complications, so I stick with the smaller scenarios, but I do understand what is going on much better, in particular with artillery. I don't want to give up on the series, and no matter whether I play SSG's games or not, I will continue to purchase them as I want to give my full fledged support behind a company with a passion for a niche genre that we grognards hold so dearly to our heart. Any ideas/tips on how to master the basics would be nice, as I want to thank Mr. Merchant for his wonderful videos which have helped me understand the game in a different light.
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Postby Abwehr » Mon Jun 22, 2009 8:04 pm

Welcome to the forums!

Kharkov is quite different from the earlier titles in some ways, but similar in others.

The scale of the units (regiments/battalions) is the same as in earlier titles, but units tend to be able to move much further and are more powerful when compared to, say, Battles in Italy.

The combat advisor in Kharkov doesn't seem to function entirely properly, as it only gives you the maximum results of units currently next to the enemy unit, if those stacks are full.

In other words: let's say you have 8 infantry regiments in the 2 hexes you occupy next to the enemy. The combat advisor will then calculate the results for an attack with those units only, it seems. If you have a tank division in reserve, and replace one of the infantry stacks with armour, you could suddenly get much better odds. I'm not sure why the combat advisor does that, but it's something to keep in mind. As you say: the combat advisor is deceptively simple, but in Kharkov's case it can also be just plain wrong.

Artillery in Kharkov functions like direct fire, or a bit like it would in Close Combat: you aim it somewhere, click, and the artillery unit will attack. In the previous games, except for Battlefront, you attached the artillery to an attack as a support asset, increasing the odds of extra casualties and a retreat result for the defender and possibly for you (the extra casualties, that is).

To me, the system is now very familiar as I've been using it for years, but I can understand why the system can be confusing, especially in Kharkov, which adds a laundrylist of extra "chance" events, mostly extra dice rolls.

If you want, we could start a PBEM game on any game in the Decisive Battles series or Kharkov so I could show you how to do a trick or two and try to familiarize you with the system(s). Using the system is the best way of learning it.
Last edited by Abwehr on Tue Jun 23, 2009 6:14 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Talos » Mon Jun 22, 2009 9:12 pm

Welcome to the foums.

As Abwehr has noted the best way to learn these games is by playing them. In the past i have played learning games with the security off so new players can see what is moved on both sides and where, along with commentary and the ability to ask questions as you go along.

Certain scenarios have certain ways of playing them to get the best chance for victory. Its worth looking at what is needed for a Victory (ie how to get VP's), these come from holding certain hexes or destroying enemy units, depending on the scenario one may have a bias other the other to get the best chance of victory. As a rule of thumb the longer the scenario the more likely you are want to destroy enemy formations, while shorter scenarios you are more likely to want to take victory hexes. Though with Kharkov certain units get to reappear a limited number of times, in the DB series once a units is dead thats it.

Also when attacking have a battle plan, that should normally be planned over several turns. Its very unlikely that you will achieve what you are trying to do over one turn of combat, which will link in with an overall strategy.

Another option is also reading some of the AAR's on the forums (for the DB series) either from the menu options or in the various threads (i recently wrote one for Rommel Master of Battle which should give some insights for this scenario in the Battles in Italy, email thread).
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Postby Bacillus » Tue Jun 23, 2009 2:57 am

Thanks for the responses guys. Abwehr, would like to do a PBEM (security off) so you show me how you make an attack and ideas on how to defend properly? My email address is "bacillus98@gmail.com"
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i really want to understand this series

Postby arkansasbob » Tue Jun 23, 2009 12:36 pm

Thanks so much for your post, Bacillus. I thought I was the only one
with that problem. I can't even get a decent result from the damn Ardennes demo much less a real game, so I lurk here reading everything. Like you, I play a lot of HPS games, until my fingers wear out. The combat advisor acts like a dice roll in Tunica-you win some, lose some, although I'm sure it's more than that. Good luck, my man, and thanks for making my day a little brighter. I'll keep plugging away here, and maybe someday I'll "get it". BobL.
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Postby Gregor Whiley » Tue Jun 23, 2009 2:23 pm

Welcome to the forums, please feel free to ask any questions you like, the people here are very friendly and will do their best to answer them.

I would like to address the question of the Combat Advisor (CA). The best way to use it is as a diagnostic tool, alerting you to possibilities in combat rather than as a prescriptive tool, telling you what to do. Just because you can get 12:1 on a certain attack doesn't mean that you should do so, that's where you have to use your judgement. However, if the CA tells you that you can get 12:1, then you know for sure that you get 8:1 or even 5:1 with a greater economy of force, and that may well be what you need to do.

Perhaps you can get two attacks on the same target at 5:1, which will often get a better result, militarily speaking, than a single attack at higher odds. Don't forget, artillery attacks before the combat might be able to whittle down some of the defenders and maybe even improve the odds.

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Postby Talos » Tue Jun 23, 2009 9:31 pm

Will ad some further info about combat in Kharkov.

The combat table and the chance of units retreating now use different tables. Each indirect fire (arty and air strike) hit you drop on to a stack on units increase the chance of the stack being forced to retreat by one, over what the default is.

In addition further loses can be incurred on a stack during attack if at least one unit is not entrenched and you are attacking with direct fire units (normally some type of armour), this gives a chance of inflicting an additional lose on the defending stack from each hex side their is a direct fire attack (so don't stack all your armour in one attack hex side, spread around to attack from multiple sides where possible).

With regards to attacking in general Gregor is right in that several lower odds attacks can be more useful rather than one higher odds attack. Especially if you can force the stack to retreat as you get to bombard it again with more indirect fire attacks.
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Postby Abwehr » Tue Jun 23, 2009 9:52 pm

In the stock scenario used in the tournament, I usually don't bother with several low odds attacks, as Soviet units are not good enough for that to be effective, but I guess it can be effective when playing as the Axis.

Low odds attacks can be a bit of a gamble though, as lower odds often mean you won't get a (decent) overrun chance. The overrun is usually an important advantage of higher odds attacks, not just the extra casualties the enemy takes.
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Postby Talos » Tue Jun 23, 2009 10:09 pm

Abwehr wrote:In the stock scenario used in the tournament, I usually don't bother with several low odds attacks, as Soviet units are not good enough for that to be effective, but I guess it can be effective when playing as the Axis.

Low odds attacks can be a bit of a gamble though, as lower odds often mean you won't get a (decent) overrun chance. The overrun is usually an important advantage of higher odds attacks, not just the extra casualties the enemy takes.


Depends on what you are trying to achieve, though for the record i do use low odds attacks, and very effective they can be to, though i am biased to overrun attacks especially after the 1st turn.
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Postby Abwehr » Tue Jun 23, 2009 11:02 pm

Sure, low odd attacks can be effective, but as I said: most of the Soviets units are basically too weak for it to be effective. You would need a large amount of units to engage in a number of potentially succesful low odd attacks. With those units, you could also try to overrun the unit.
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Postby Graf Starhemberg » Wed Jun 24, 2009 3:34 am

Abwehr wrote:Sure, low odd attacks can be effective, but as I said: most of the Soviets units are basically too weak for it to be effective. You would need a large amount of units to engage in a number of potentially succesful low odd attacks. With those units, you could also try to overrun the unit.


I have to disagree.
As Soviets I think it is more effective during the opening turns to weaken German defenders with step snipping low odds attacks combined with artillery. As there usually is a chance of one or two retreat results as well, it might well occur that the defender moves back and looses its entrenchment which makes a follow up attack more promising. Imho the Soviets can afford a 2:1 loss ratio during their starting attacks whereas this would be the worst possible outcome...

My problem with overrun attacks is that I usually have to commit too many units for them to succeed - and if they do so, I often don´t have units left to finish off the defender if he moved back.
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Postby Dale H » Wed Jun 24, 2009 10:29 am

I have to agree that the Combat Advisor is best used as a guide or reference tool to let you know where the enemy is the weakest & not to tell you exactly where to attack.

My best advice is to play some of the early series against the AI. I started by playing TAO & just kept at it until I learned how to beat the AI. Then if you have BiI you can play Husky or Avalanche & not be overwhelmed.

After you get comfortable then I would suggest finding someone who as at the same level of competence you are then play a lot of games PBEM. Don't worry if you lose. If a game gets out of hand agree to stop & start over. Switch sides a lot. Read & re-read the Tutorials & the Manuals. I know it is not fun & they could present the material a bunch better but they are what they are.

When you get comfortable with DBWW2 then go on to Battlefront or Kharkov.

If you ever want someone to teach you let me know. I am a terrible player but I could get you started. A good friend of mine are still playing BiI. We have played a number of Husky games as both sides. We are both learning a lot.

But remember above all to have fun. Gaming doesn't get any better in spite of the relatively steep learning curve. It is worth every bit of effort.
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Postby Joe » Wed Jun 24, 2009 10:40 am

Sometimes when you attack, you are not trying to destroy a unit, instead you want to force a retreat. Because after he has retreated then you can take advantage, slip in there and do more damage.

RE: Battlefront and Kharkov: Note that if an entrenched unit retreats, it is no longer entrenched and you can destroy with artillery.

Right click on various hexes. Note that some have Shock Defence and some have none. Hit F6 and note that some of you’re units have Shock Attack values (the little dots).

Wherever possible, make an attack using higher shock attack than he has shock defence.

The total Shock Defence of any hex is made up of 2 figures:
The Shock Defence of the hex itself.
Review all the units in the hex
Take the unit with the highest Shock Defence.
Add this figure to the Shock Defence of the hex itself.
This gives the total Shock Defence of the hex and stack together.

In any attack, if the attacker takes a step loss, the attacking unit with the most number of steps takes the first step loss.

If 2 units have the same number of steps, the one with the lowest attack value takes the first step loss.

From this we learn to make attacks with a combination of quality units and poor units. Then the poor units take the step loss and the quality units can continue to attack so you’re attack does not bog down.

If you attack a hex from multiple sides, you receive attack bonuses. Review the info screens and note that the bonuses vary from one country to another. If you are advancing and you know this you can use this to you’re benefit to reduce the affects of an enemy counterattack.

Battlefront and Kharkov: Right click on various hexes and note the Indirect Fire modifier. If you place a unit on a hex with a high IF modifier, it makes it hard for artillery to attack units on those hexes.

The Combat Advisor is not always accurate. Look around carefully and sometimes you can improve the odds. Also, sometimes you can remove units from a combat without reducing the odds – and then use them to make more attacks.

If an attack is across a river, the attacking units on the other side of the river can often be removed from an attack and it has no effect on the odds.

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Postby ccorraliza » Sun Sep 20, 2009 1:48 pm

I have played and replayed all of the SSG titles since Ardennes was available. Great games, even Battlefront. But I am stumped and frustrated with Kharkov. Played both sides and soundly whipped on both occassions.

No complaints. But only commenting on how this game appears as the other games visually but obviously plays competely different.
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Postby Talos » Sun Sep 20, 2009 8:30 pm

ccorraliza wrote:I have played and replayed all of the SSG titles since Ardennes was available. Great games, even Battlefront. But I am stumped and frustrated with Kharkov. Played both sides and soundly whipped on both occassions.

No complaints. But only commenting on how this game appears as the other games visually but obviously plays competely different.


Myself and Spuddy64 are about to start the Kharkov tournament final. We will be writing AAR's from both our perspectives for each side. These are not necessarily the best way to play this scenario, but its what has worked for us. This should give some insite on how to play the scenario, also feel free to ask questions as we go along. If we start over the next couple of days, we will probable start posting in about two weeks probable about 5 turns behind where we are in the actual games.
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