Quartermaster: An In-depth Look At Supply/Logistics In Strategic Command WW2: War in Europe12 Dec 2016 0
Although Wargamer.com recently reviewed Fury Software’s Strategic Command WWII: War in Europe (SC WiE), as well as offered a feature on its naval operations, we believe such a deep game warrants more scrutiny; so, this time we’re having a closer look at the supply system. While simple on the surface – as I suggested in the review, most complexity is hidden from the player – it nonetheless behoves one to understand it, since comprehension will almost certainly pay off, especially playing as the Axis against the U.S.S.R., or either side in North Africa. In case you’ve been too busy playing elsewhere and hadn’t already noticed, an offensive can quickly bog down – almost literally – in the mud and then snow on the endless plains of Russia, or else along the skeletal infrastructure of the Libyan and Egyptian deserts. Thus, grasping the details of maximising supply can mitigate these effects, so that you can go on to well-deserved world domination!
First, the good news, as if current players didn’t already know: You don’t have to generate and manage supplies; the game auto-produces them as well as calculates each unit’s entitlement and distributes them, too! That aside, some principles I am about to mention are more or less ‘givens’, germane to virtually all similar wargames, while others are somewhat unique to SC WiE. As an example of the former, keeping HQs close to frontline units is advisable; taking them ‘off-road’, inadvisable. Where the game introduces something I don’t recall seeing is to tie unit Morale to its Supply status, which, as I mentioned in the review, in turn affects combat Readiness as well as movement – itself regulated by Action Points (AP). Note that attack allotment is by Strikes, usually 1-2 each, and Prepared Attacks are more effective than Blitz Attacks, the difference being merely that the latter take place after movement on a given turn. They are not affected by supply, other than perhaps running out of AP to execute a Blitz Attack.
Perusing the screenshots, one can readily see how supplies become ‘strung out’ from the frontlines to the rear, as distances increase, terrain intervenes, and infrastructure deteriorates (including from ‘scorched earth’ enemy retreats). Although damaged resources will automatically repair a point per turn to their maximum (albeit not as high as under their original owner), an attacker is still slowed. Therefore, while not an exhaustive list, the following table illustrates some benefits/advantages of higher Supply – or perhaps the inverse!
OHH… I GOTTA HEADACHE…
In general, a unit will acquire the Supply Value of its hex at turn’s end – naturally, assuming it’s higher than its current value, preferably determined by nearby HQs. As indicated on the table, HQs also have a Supply Distribution Value (Distribute); simply, the amount of supplies it can disburse to nearby units. Based on full strength (10), and assuming it has access to a supply source, even if an HQ itself has 0 Supply, it can still dispense 5; at Supply 1-5 its Value is 8; ≥6 = 10. Finally, they have a Minimum Supply Value: 1-5 even if Supply = 0; 1-8 if Supply = 1-5; or Supply = Strength @ Supply 6+. The latter amounts can be increased by +1 with each level of Logistics attained.
To demonstrate, a Strength 10 HQ with 10 Supply, two hexes from a Supply Source of 8, distributes 10 supplies to its own hex (giving itself 10 for the next turn), 9 to adjacent ones – assuming non-mud or a paved road – 8 two hexes away, and so on. Of course, terrain modifiers and interventions by partisans, as well as Logistics, will still affect the final result; this is what you’re seeing in the screenshots. An HQ with only 5 Supply three hexes from a Source 5 distributes 7, 6, 5… Furthermore, HQs linked in a chain – albeit not ‘physically’, i.e., Attached via the right-click menu as for other units – can extend one’s supply network (see later on).
Other effects include National Morale bonuses for a unit’s alliance after cutting off enemy units and reducing them to less than 5 Supply prior to destruction. Also keep in mind that, when loaded into Transports, a unit starts with 10 Supply (which may affect Morale if increased), but they land at 5. Amphibious Transports lose 1 Supply point per turn, landing with current Supply (not applicable to Long Range Amphibious Transports). Again, as stated in the manual, a unit unloading from an Amphibious Transport (other than in a port) will take landing casualties based on its Supply status = 100 - (Supply-1) * 10 (percent).
Lastly, in case you missed it – but it’s worth repeating – here’s the example of how the stats interact from the rulebook: A unit with Supply 9 has a base Morale of 90%; the calculation for Readiness is: Strength (1-10) + Supply (0-10) + Morale (variable %) = Readiness (%). Readiness is a critical determinant of a unit’s combat effectiveness.
As might be deduced by now, HQ units are critically important in SC WiE to maximise units’ supply status. The hotkey ‘S’ shows the current supply status of each hex; another press reveals an estimate for next turn, including for enemy territory (presuming the player’s units were to enter it). Sea hexes are also shown, with reductions of -1 per hex distance. Headquarters are of course not applicable at sea, but note that a naval unit need not actually be ‘in’ port to resupply (making blockades harder to execute, but in turn preventing players with strong navies from simply plunking a ship outside each port to strangle the life out of their opponent!).
It may take some experimentation, but you’ll want to move your HQs as close as practicable to railheads to ensure frontline units have Supply 5+ if you plan to reinforce them at all, 6+ for maximum and upgrades. Recall, however, that they cannot upgrade if adjacent to an enemy; withdraw those you plan to fully R&R to a location of at least 6 Supply. A few other tips I can offer (most drawn from the rules, in case you still haven’t read them all yet!) are, first, be sure to include HQs in amphibious invasions; each attack (Strike) or defence uses one Supply (except for submarines that dive); and research Mobility to increase Action Points (plus, it should go without saying: upgrade your units as soon as possible once you have researched higher levels of Mobility). Finally, I suggest using Manual HQ Attachment; Automatic or Auto-Assist will grab everything closest, including garrisons, which will invariably not be your first choice of combat units. Speaking of which, watch out for partisans!
Q&A WITH THE DESIGN TEAM
Concluding tips are once again courtesy of Bill Runacre, SC WiE’s campaign designer and Hubert Cater, the game's developer and AI programmer:
Wargamer: In the rules (p68) under Notes… you mention “Major Capitals” (1st bullet) as well as “Major’s Capitals” (2nd bullet); I admit some confusion as to the difference. Can you clarify?
Hubert Cater/Bill Runacre: A Major Capital is a resource type, in this case a capital that can have enhanced strength, economic value and supply giving values. A Major’s Capital refers to the capital of a Major country, without specifying the resource type, that can be either a normal Capital or a Major Capital.
Wargamer: Do I understand the rules correctly if I state that, in essence, an HQ more or less doubles supply in low infrastructure environments, i.e. <6, with distance & terrain modifiers still applying, plus Logistics?
Hubert Cater/Bill Runacre: Essentially, that’s a fair way of explaining it. HQs are essential everywhere, and even more so in low infrastructure.
Wargamer: I’ve noticed that, seemingly due to the supply system, ‘typical’ pincer movements by Axis units, esp. armour/mechanised infantry, do not seem to work. Even though I easily end-around the enemy, cutting them off, my supply situation suddenly becomes so dire that I cannot exploit breaches; out of supply, out of AP! Furthermore, the enemy seems able to hold out a rather long time, annoyingly able to reinforce units at 1-2 Str to 8 or 10 every turn, leaving me unable to dislodge them before mud, then winter, sets in (and I do understand about keeping at least two units adjacent). After repeated attempts (starting in ’39) I have been unable to penetrate as far as Smolensk, Kiev, Dnepropetrovsk, or Pskov, let alone Stalingrad, Moscow, et al. I’ve tried keeping HQs close(r), using more of them in a ‘string’, adding more units instead of investing in tech… I’ve even attacked as early as March ’41! So far stuck! What rules/tactics am I missing here?
Hubert Cater/Bill Runacre: It can be difficult to exploit breakthroughs because of supply difficulties, and to assist here upgrading your HQs with Motorization [Mobility] and, if you feel confident, advancing them near to the lead elements will help. So, some boldness is advisable, but not without some care too, depending on the situation, and as the war progresses it might be harder to achieve those daring Blitzkrieg-style advances, just as it became more difficult in real life.
The key to reducing a pocket is to limit the supply levels of the cut-off units, [because] if they are on low supply then this will prevent them from reinforcing to any significant strength unless an HQ is present. It will also lower their Morale and Readiness. If that HQ suffers damage then its ability to provide supply and therefore reinforcement to the units around it will be limited.
If units are reinforcing to 8 or 10 without the presence of a HQ then it suggests that they are still receiving good supply from a friendly Capital, Industrial Center or Supply Center, and controlling any railroads between these units and those will prevent it.
If the cut-off units are occupying a resource, then a unit of Strategic Bombers and/or a Rail Gun can help reduce the strength of that resource and therefore its supply value.
Wargamer: Speaking of ‘linking’ HQs, how exactly does this work? Do they just need to be in range of one another; i.e., you cannot physically Attach them like other units, yes? It seems like an awful trade-off to not have them up close assisting with frontline units, but is that what it takes, that is, a chain of HQs back to a Major Capital/Port or Secondary Supply Source?
Hubert Cater/Bill Runacre: HQs just need to be fairly close to each other and they will automatically provide a supply bonus as applicable.
Wargamer: Finally, fans want to know: Are there plans for a Steam release? (When?)
Hubert Cater/Bill Runacre: Yes, no final date set on it just yet but it is in the works.
That’s it for this episode of Strategic Command, folks! Do comment if you’d like to see more on the game– or any other, for that matter! Questions are welcome too.
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