As I was watching a well done doc on 1940 I heard Winston in his Voice for democracies, version against German air terror in 1940. I kept thinking:" Man why did not you stay on course?" It reminded me of this article in Armchair general and my itch to answer to it.

This article is biased in several ways and true in many others. Biased because by being so general that the answer cannot be but yes, of course allied air power was decisive just as allied infantry was or navy or capacity to give hot meals to the soldiers. By putting all aspects of air power into the same basket it does little credit to the very controversial aspects of air war Europe. The main and most important issue is the mass bombing of German cities.

1) Main point morally impossible to justify: the slaughter of civilians, in full knowledge, for no palatable strategic results but some form of "reaped what they sawed" revenge, unworthy of the reasons for this fight.

2) Purely military use: soundness, options and waste of manpower and industrial power.


Don't tell me this was war and this has nothing to do with it, collateral damages et all. This war was first of all a war about and for ideas, democracies against Nazis. That is why so many fought, those who thought about it at least. Refer to those movie theater programs: "why we fight"and policy statements by Roosevelt, Churchill and the creation of the United Nations, the universal human rights etc.

They had already said these things:


Unanimous resolution of the League of Nations Assembly, September 30, 1938.

The Assembly,

Considering that on numerous occasions public opinion has expressed through the most authoritative channels its horror of the bombing of civilian populations;

Considering that this practice, for which there is no military necessity and which, as experience shows, only causes needless suffering, is condemned under the recognised principles of international law;

Considering further that, though this principle ought to be respected by all States and does not require further reaffirmation, it urgently needs to be made the subject of regulations specially adapted to air warfare and taking account of the lessons of experience;

Considering that the solution of this problem, which is of concern to all States, whether Members of the League of Nations or not, calls for technical investigation and thorough consideration;

Considering that the Bureau of the Conference for the Reduction and Limitation of Armaments is to meet in the near future and that it is for the Bureau to consider practical means of undertaking the necessary work under conditions most likely to lead to as general an agreement as possible:

I. Recognizes the following principles as a necessary basis for any subsequent regulations:

1) The intentional bombing of civilian populations is illegal;

2) Objectives aimed at from the air must be legitimate military objectives and must be identifiable;

3) Any attack on legitimate military objectives must be carried out in such a way that civilian populations in the neighbourhood are not bombed through negligence;

II. Also takes the opportunity to reaffirm that the use of chemical or bacterial methods in the conduct of war is contrary to international law, as recalled more particularly in the resolution of the General Commission of the Conference for the Reduction and Limitation of Armaments of July 23rd 1932, and the resolution of the Council of May 14th, 1938."

        "Appeal of President Franklin D. Roosevelt on Aerial Bombardment of Civilian Populations, September 1, 1939

The President of the United States to the Governments of France, Germany, Italy, Poland and His Britannic Majesty, September 1, 1939

The ruthless bombing from the air of civilians in unfortified centers of population during the course of the hostilities which have raged in various quarters of the earth during the past few years, which has resulted in the maiming and in the death of thousands of defenseless men, women, and children, has sickened the hearts of every civilized man and woman, and has profoundly shocked the conscience of humanity.

If resort is had to this form of inhuman barbarism during the period of the tragic conflagration with which the world is now confronted, hundreds of thousands of innocent human beings who have no responsibility for, and who are not even remotely participating in, the hostilities which have now broken out, will lose their lives. I am therefore addressing this urgent appeal to every government which may be engaged in hostilities publicly to affirm its determination that its armed forces shall in no event, and under no circumstances, undertake the bombardment from the air of civilian populations or of unfortified cities, upon the understanding that these same rules of warfare will be scrupulously observed by all of their opponents. I request an immediate reply."

Then in 1940 the Germans bombed Rotterdam, Warsaw, later Coventry, London. Yes Hitler could and would have done worse, he was limited…by his war machine. Get in your mind Picasso's Guernica. Retaliations? To me, this kind of policy was against the war aims. Acting like those, barbarians you mean to fight (and this is valid today too) is debasing yourself to their level.

Please don't bring me the relative statistics of death. Yes overall the allies did inflict, less pain than the others did, and yes they did fight for the right reasons. But there is only one ball game of senseless horror and dancing in it even with another tune is still in the same room. Don't give medals of horror, having less than the other side is then so much better.

Did they, please act as said? No.

Now read that: interesting tactics! (when you read firefighters, just add ambulances to have the right picture).

Between 300000 and 600000 German civilians were killed (add occupied countries to it); maybe those were the lucky ones; think about the hundred thousands of maimed, in their mind and limbs, for life. Let us not fight about statistics: a great humanist, Mussolini had something like this about statistics: kill one, it is murder, kill ten this is a massacre, seven thousands is statistics.

 Be imaginative, think of a 4 year's old little girl with dimples and blonde hair in a pony tail, with a huge smile and… Now face half burned, one leg less and what 70 more years to live, live?

Yes war is horrible, yes casualties are not avoidable, yes this unlucky girl could have been caught in a village held by the remnants of a SS company in February 1945 (3 months to go!) under a US army artillery barrage. Tough luck. What about the systematic killing of 80000 German children by terror bombing? Maybe some of them were Hitlerjungend like Gunter Grass had to be. To be cynical for half of them, well, it could have been unavoidable as the instruments of war, these bombers were so inaccurate. Yes the allies had to bomb German infrastructure, industry etc. and then yes, civilians would get killed. Yes the allies did inflict damage, far less than they thought, yes they had too.

Think that the greatest slaughter began when the war was close to an end, there was no doubt about the issue, whatever remnants of German power that was, did not matter that much.

On 14 February, 1942, Directive No. 22 was issued to Bomber Command. Bombing was to be "focused on the morale of the enemy civil population and in particular of the industrial workers." Translate: kill civilians in great enough numbers that fear of death by bombs will overcome fear of death from "defeatism" by the SS. Why? Because they knew their attacks on the industry was not doing it.

Think about:

Dresden, (air raid by UK & US: 13-14 Feb. 1945): 35 000 to 50000 dead

Berlin, (air raid by US: 3 Feb. 1945): 25 000.

Think about Clauzewitz , as this war as politics (democracy, freedom, human rights?) by other means. Any dead that is useless, any large amount of dead that have no military means in war is a war crime. Sometimes the limits are blurred sometimes not.

3) Ok, was it worth it? Was it sound tactics?

If you read the (often partial, dimmed) analysis after the war and what few internal reports from the top brass during the war: the answer is NO!

Why? Because on a purely cynical, practical, military, strategic analysis, the results have to be balanced with the means used for them, the alternate use that could have been.

Airmen losses 160000 (US+UK) or equivalent of almost half total US war death? For what?

Allied personnel needed for that: 1.3 millions!!!!! Dozens of thousands of planes, and mostly 4 engine big ones, those that needed the most material to build.

How many tactical planes they could have instead, together with let's say a dozen more armoured divisions. Imagine ten more armoured divisions around Caen in 44, at Bastogne?

Read (on the net for free please do it) ^ Crook, Paul (2003.). "Chapter 10 "The case against Area Bombing"". in Peter Hore. Patrick Blackett: Sailor, Scientist, and Socialist. Routledge. p. 176.


 (Ok I know many of you will freak out because in the title it says "socialists" but even these cannot always be wrong especially when not really talking about economy, even with that kind of author's name…remember the US cavalry in 1876, then it will help.)

Instead of senseless, costly raids in Germany in 1942 many more long range bombers could have been transferred to Coastal Command. Only by late 42 did they do it against the will of the bomber leaders.

By 43 these had already won the battle of the Atlantic. They could have done it six months earlier, saving thousands of merchant mariners. When I say that, think, we talk about a few dozen planes!

Carpet bombing: Cobra? Why not several others? And Italy and bases? And…. German training areas, deployment zones in France to force utter dispersal and great use of fuel for training. What about the Liri valley and elsewhere. Why the Luftwaffe systematic attack of RAF bases was a sound tactic in 1940 and the Allied air power not be the same in 43-44?

Mining the long Hamburg's exit to the sea and keeping doing it, attacking those flimsy minesweepers, would have rendered the port, the Uboot pens etc. just as useless or even more. The intense air interdiction (the most efficient use of air power in WW2) of post Normandy landings might have been sustained with say a couple thousand more long range fighter bombers instead of a thousand B24. I like the B24 (a nice plane btw), Liberator? When bombing civilians it sound a bit like a Catholic priest in South America in the 16th century liberating Indians from their sins.

Only by 1943 did the German industry go to full war production (crazy Adolf did not war to alienate the workers by forcing them to work on 3 shifts! You know the socialist part of national socialist…) in 44 despite the allied effort they produced more of everything than before.Ok if you read about it, with an open mind you'll see.

On a half lighter side, think of all the cultural places that were destroyed, as I am a wargamer too, I would have liked the info on 1815 Hanoverian flags and 1866-70 Saxon flags that was lost in fire raids. (wargamers/historian article hey?)

I will honour Patton and the dead and survivors of Bedford VA, for example but not so Bomber Harris, Carl Spaatz or the 1943 version of Churchill.

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We, miniature gamers all know that the end of the world exists, commonly otherwise known as the table edge.
This most unfortunate feature even calls for special rules, brings in players gamey behaviour. Everyone is aware this straight daunting line can trap units, others vanish by being forced to jump in that void, and at times it acts as a saving deep fog allowing escapes. The trouble is, the fog stops at the table edge.

In many ways for battles, prior to the last century, when they were fought on a limited sized sort of field our tables are Ok as long as one has the needed space fitting with the fight, or more often the fight fitting in the space.
This is actually problem #1

When say after the middle of the 19th century as these fields became huge, or certainly with WW1 and 2, there is no more rectangular battlefield but a huge continual even possibly fluid battle over hundreds or thousands of men and hundreds of km of front. Ok skirmish or nearly so engagements can still be raids, patrols, or the like that are fought in a sort of void on a limited space be it between the lines, behind etc. or very limited in time fights in closed up areas.
Simply put your average ww2 fight whether it is a company against another (say IABSM ; bolt action Pzer grenadier etc.) or battalions (Command decision, Spearhead…) should be part of a bigger operation.
The sides of this fight you play, unless very special cases, well, are connected to other units. In other words there are no safe sides to your table. I am talking here mostly of the lateral sides, assuming at least a quasi linear sort of field not to complicate one life. 
This is actually problem #2

If your table is say 4km x 3km as in a Command Decision/ FFT3 game, the potential interference is not very great but can still be potent, of maybe 1/5th of the table length in each side. In real life any unit moving in these sector should be somewhat concerned about what lies on those sides. In our games they are not, they can even benefit from them as « secure ».
If your fight is a company and even more in all those platoon actions which are now so popular,
 If you have any idea about the average troop densities, it will encompass at most a few 100 m in each directions.
Then your actual action can be totally dominated by something that is out of the table. It becomes even more utterly theoretical to have such a fight in the context of a continuous front without this consideration.
Of course we have the other trouble that your T34 driver, if the terrain is good would just jump off table if he sneeze with his foot on the pedal. Say 40km/h for 200m, 20 seconds ?
Yes I know, it is just a game…and it should stay so. I never said anything against it yet?
We may add to the game in a way that would make it better by putting it a bit into its context. In creating in the player more of the actual reactions, worries and feelings of the real chaps.
You must think only a gamer of the « simulationist » type as me would be bothered by these existential but for most, swept aside troubles.
I will try to show you why they are in some ways killing your games and set some sparse ideas to go around the problems, and I’d welcome comments, and certainly even more ideas to make things better.
In other words we have troubles and conduct highly unrealistic games because the end of the world is too close
As I often try to say to the guys «who plays only» but do not care much about the simulation side: nothing but the game mechanisms make it fun, and also those can or not worry about the, yes I will use that scary word, « realism ». What your tactics, the results, your choices and behaviour on the table will make the game a simulation or just a game that happen to be with miniatures that look like their historical counterpart instead of fantasy ones. The two can easily combine, they are just game mechanisms.
So now that I found myself some two problems, can I start getting solutions?
Sol. 1 Get more space ;))
Sol 2 Use smaller miniatures like 6-8mm. But don’t cram the place again!
Sol 3 Several steps, making use of modern technologies. In truth there is no excuse for not using them instead of still playing like in the 80s.
 1 Make a battle field, drawn on your computer or use an overhead picture. It does not need be very accurate nor a work of art (you could make yourself a bank of pictures of your terrain elements, most of us do not have an endless amount of it ;) Use it as a sketch of the whole battle, even those parts you cannot have on your limited table size. Have a system, say Skype (?) of distant communication and imagery. Use it to discuss your set ups and plans before the face to face game, to deploy in rough zones and numbers, the troops of each side, preferably with fog of war and a quick system of pre-game reconnaissance (more on that later here !). All this can and should be done from home, nicely when you have time, it saves a lot of it when you have your precious face to face playtime.
It also allows for what historically happens a lot: the « non battle » ; when both sides, well, find it not too good to slug it out. I am sure some of your game days were spoilt by this occurrence, whether the scenario turns out to have a flaw, or some terrain was, you know, too close form that edge of the world… Non battle? Try again.
 2 Now each side might have a quick strategy thinking and a quick drawn / written, which ever you like, idea of the general plan. I assume you use a system that slows troops with hardly a chance the one on the right will ever be going on the left (ex Fire and fury and derivatives) or orders and delays.
It means a good deal of your initial positioning will stick. In military wording, each will have its Area of Operation.
 3 Now each side might figure out there are sectors of the battlefield which will be quiet or nearly irrelevant to the final act.
You can literally cut them off your now to be installed table /game field. If you complicate your life and have a quiet centre then allow a sort of small neutral band in the centre to lay down those chaps who come in or more likely go out in there.
Now some of the lateral sides of your table fight will have secondary fights or some troops there, in fact Off table.
Note this system is not perfect, just tries to allow bigger battles on smaller spaces or some things to be or fight just yonder out. This not only good for WW1/2. Think of the light troops fight off the main field at Minden . It could be Plancenoit for Waterloo.
You can conceive an easy quick way, say opposed D10 at certain times during the game, preferably in a chaotic way, to see what happens and who wins off table. Talk in advantages of each side with a few +/-
 Go simple.
 4 fight your main fight the usual way, but with the occasional effective result off table that might or not (player choices and chance) interfere with your main battle.
You may consider using some features of the solutions of problem #2.
 1 Define roughly what can lie out there on the sides and interfere with your game.
In fact you should quickly come to very similar stuff. A few Mgs, Anti tank guns, guns, if modern maybe helos etc.…If you get in very low scale, platoon / company sized game, in truth the closer from the sides, the nearer everything it can be.
We do not want to get in to a complicated, detailed set of sort of game in the game.
In reality what would happen:
Either those guys out there have a fight of their own which should keep them busy most of the time, or want to stay put in a game of cat and mouse, hidden in waiting. In either case low interference.
In truth if they have a real lot of interference (think of a dominant position in Italy nearby, 1944 ?) your game might just not be relevant ; better forget this option. Any scale in between can be, with variants.
So in real-life you would have to be careful, take that one for example:


On this sketch Blue is attacking red positions. If you are not using my ideas, well red is pretty screwed up as there are two massively covered approaches for blue on either outer sides of the woods. Yet if you look at historical actual fights, you get plenty of that.
In real life those sectors should be covered at least quite some, by other positions out there. Otherwise we have an isolated box… they would probably have chosen another place. 

So what?
Use cards. On some put MG fire, some with guns, and some with both. Get plenty. Put a variable number of blanks inside to make it unpredictable. Take off a few at game start so that one who has learnt all stats about it has lost his time trying ;).
You can have blue on blue a bit. After all we are talking of a different outfit /AO… It needs not really be stated, in war there is nothing like “friendly fire”.
Now in the course of the game, especially if we are talking of one of a larger scope, encompassing hours of fighting like Command decision, those flanks might become secure, one or both for one side or another. They might stay in doubt. For larger scope games you can draw a line (put a marker on a side) if necessary to show the extent of the depth of friendly positions. Obviously there should not be enemy fire from behind that line.
Then depending on the degree of interference you want, draw cards, allow the players to keep a few to play in his hand. Note, the cards should have a say 6-7/10 chances to actually work so as to not be magical. After all those chaps out there are not obeying you.
The result, in the above table, the guy who wants to skirt that wood, might get badly shot up from the flank, just as he would in real time. He will have to act with it in mind.
You might not even want to go into details: no need to say on card: 88mm gun shoots.. you might say just have ATGs are firing on you, your tank has x chances of being knocked out. We assume these chaps off won’t bother shoot a 37 on a Tiger..
The whole process is to make you act and think more realistically, without spoiling the game.
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                                CREATING AND INSTALLING GZATSK 1813

And no you have never heard of this battle...

4000 figurines; THE huge what if  1812-13 battle; 190000 men for Napoleon vs  160000 for Kutusov. Part of my "what if he waited to reorganize and took care of his rear areas in late August 1812..."

Why this place? In his analysis of 1812 Clauzewitz states that the position behind this town of Gzatsk (today Gagarin in Smolensk oblast) was one of the best they could have taken, chosen by Barclay just before he was removed from overall command. We can understand it was abandoned after works had started as too wide to fight the better manoeuvring French (wargaming hint to those who think all commands in all armies are equals) and the available numbers;  understatement also means if victorious it would have been too much of a Barclay victory;)

In my what if the French obviously would be better off than at Borodino but so would the Russians, which  means they'd have enough troops, probably. And I believe Carl von....

The main problem: I had to find the proper map. I asked and we found Russian sources on line. I did not go to the central library to ferret into the map room and maybe find  period sketches and maps, maybe even the report on installing this battlefield! Though whenever I go again I might look.

Using this site I had a map of the place with everything you want from 1871. Other older maps lacking details would be only checked for the villages and extend of the town, just in case it would have changed significantly. Then it has maps from post WW1 and especially a very detailed topographical map from 1941 . Another site which I forgot to bookmark  (!) some nowadays flood map that has heights shown in coloured contrasted clear layouts was quite useful to figure out faster the main heights. It also had the feature of measuring things and  having local heights with passing the mouse over. And if I want to use it again, for the third time I will have to search for it. Yes.

Even if I started full of elan, I soon realized that the place was complicated and short of doing a huge job of surveying and  detailed special 3D full set of polystyrene tiles which I hardly can store (I have a 3x 4.5m surface tables) the main useful features will have to be enough. I am no  Bruce Weigl;). Hours of trial and errors using as a bottom layer the 1871 map (after starting with the 1941- but will say further why) I ended up with a not so nice project (as the stuff was after all taken from the internet low rez) but good enough. The choice of the rectangle that would be the battlefield was also a subject of errors and multiple re doing. Studying the stuff as to how would they set up , and  how to attack was very important, for all my space I cannot screw up too much. And actually I did, allowing a bit not enough space for the French, which I realized typically once every single tree and Russian was installed! obviously I did not redo it. But if and when I play that again, ho I'd wish, with 3 other guys! I would do it right. The game will say it it was a real problem other that aesthetical (not able to put down all the French-some off table!).

I was very careful about the orientation, not to use a simple North East South as on the internet maps. The Russian defenses as described by Carl Von would mainly follow the crests along the main river and the map showed it makes sense. The French need enough to deploy, the Russians too plus  recoiling without falling into that ridiculous end of the world, and the flanks put where they make more sense, keeping in mind it had to fit in 18km by 11.5. 

There was one striking difference between the 1871 map(s) and the 1941 map. In 1941 the woods seemed bigger, and there was a lot of water, what looed like ponds, marshes etc . along the river. I guess having been along The Volga, the Don, the Dniepr and many smaller ones (notable at Maloyaroslavets) one bank would higher than the other, and a more or less wide expense of low ground would flat and able to be flooded in spring on both sides. Villages and cultures be on the starting elevation and up. The soviets in their 1920s mess and their innate socialist belief that even Nature (not just human nature) will bend to their will, probably messed up the 1000 years proven local ways. So the floods that were contained or kept harmless would have destroyed newly forced upon agriculture, the collectivisation and industries nearby made these quite numerous villages caring no more about the land around them (I was surprised at the number of villages on this map as one striking Russian feature is- emptiness- in France and Germany you easily have a village every 2km- hence the range of the Milan ATGM-) in European Russia you can go 20 km without one. Maybe more nowadays than then, surely but still... and had a bad feeling about "shall I not have enough "eastern houses" (prompting Timecast and Kerr and King orders!). They also had a railway and a motorway built in 1941, the soviet way, not necessarily caring about water extraction-a standard feature of Moscow streets with heavy rain;).

While doing the order of battle of the 1812 in 1813, more funny things in, as French guards of 1813, the Russian volunteer cavalry from the nobles, who never had time to be fully raised (I have a full division of them with funny dresses, most accurate) could be put in play. And then I discovered I need more Russian generals, and Prussian batteries...


One of the things that would be of importance, most but not all the eastern bank of the river is higher than the "French" bank, This one often not significant for the game. I decided the higher bank would be 2 levels high, the higher steep  (a common feature of Russian rivers) one marked with "crests". some of the highest places were put as hills as featured on the modern height map. Most of the rest of the banks as crests,  being level 1;
one inch from the river is level -1 in case.  Some level 3 crop up south mostly and I curtailed the woods that otherwise bisect too much the Russian position. Clauzewitz says they were on the rear nicely covering the path of retreat. the bigger forested area maybe modern (even 19th century modern) effect of better agriculture  and less cultivated land further from villages. Russian woods normally are  high trees with not so much brush underneath, only at the edges. So dark and relatively easy to move in, but still surely not in close order formations. 
Now ready to install it! 

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