My blog about my wargaming activities. I collect a lot of 15mm miniatures for the American War of Independence and so collect a lot of rules for this period. I started miniatures with Napoleonics, so I have a number of armies in 6mm and 15mm figures for skirmishing. I have15mm WW II figures that I use for Flames of War, Memoir '44, and someday, Poor Bloody Infantry. Finally there is my on-again, off-again relationship with paper soldiers that I sometimes write about.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Re-thinking my approach to WW II Gaming

I have been talking with my gaming buddy Don, trying to figure out why we are both so unenthusiastic about the latest version of Flames of War, and it appears that we both agree that, although they have simplified certain aspects of the rules, they are no longer "easy". Maybe we are both just getting too old and have too much of work on our minds, but the same level of enthusiasm is just not there anymore.

I started in Flames of War much like I did with Warhammer 40K and Warmachine; it was what everyone else was playing. If you wanted to game, that was what you played. Otherwise, you had to buy and paint both sides and find players for the rules you wanted to try. That is basically what happened with me and the AWI. (Interestingly, DBA is the one game where it was introduced to us by someone outside of the group and several gamers all took to it pretty readily.) I collected a late war US force (but never really finished it) and later a late war German force. I now have enough that I do not need to add to it, other than to flesh out the US force that I never finished.

Dice as Chart Replacements

As Don and I talked I think we both came to the conclusion that one of the reasons we like Memoir '44 (M44) and other Command and Colors variants is that some of the charts are built into the dice themselves. For example, in M44 the basic chance to hit infantry is 50% (2 INFANTRY symbols and 1 GRENADE symbol), while the basic chance for a morale failure is 16% (1 FLAG symbol). The rules you have to remember are how many dice to throw and whether you can ignore certain results (ignore a FLAG for being in a bunker, for example). For the most part, those rules are relatively easy to remember, with only a quick re-read when a scenario introduces an element that you don't play that often (e.g. hospitals, mortars, etc.). I always find a game's FAQ best indicates where a game designer has introduced complexity without elegance (e.g. The quirks of mortars).

As I am looking for a set of rules that allows me to replace FOW, but use those forces without re-basing, it probably needs to be at the same scale (i.e. a company per side). Besides, that will allow me to use FOW's force lists and points, should I want to do a pickup game. More to the point, I want the rules to use the mechanisms I like about M44, so custom dice with the odds built in is something I want to use.

Grid-Based

Another aspect I like with M44 is the use of a grid to regulate distance. I have never been fond of measuring and any disagreements about fractions of an inch disturbs me. That miniature purists claim that I am playing a board game with miniatures instead of a miniatures game with a gridded board is of no consequence to me. Whether the grid should be squares or hexes seems almost a religious discussion, one that I have had quite a number of with my old gaming buddy Justo. He always favored the hex (for symmetry) and I the square (for aesthetics and linearity). Now my concern is more with it being easier to make square terrain pieces than hex ones, but I am working on that.

Special Abilities

I have had an old TSR dice game called Dragon Dice for a while now and one aspect of the game is the use of custom dice to represent special abilities. In addition to the normal combat dice, indicated above, a unit could have one or more custom dice where the icons represent special effects. Examples might be the ability to move through terrain quickly, moving without affecting the unit's rate of fire, etc. So in addition to throwing the normal dice during combat these ability dice would be thrown to see if special effects come into play.

Command and Control

The one area where I would not take M44 game mechanics would be its command and control system. The left-center-right sector mechanism works well for the level of M44, but it would not do for the tactical level that I wish to play. Something like Battles of Westeros would be more appropriate where the command and control system is leader-centric. Of course this really depends upon the amount of friction you wish to simulate. Games like Flames of War do not really simulate friction in the command and control system as every unit can be ordered every turn unless it has some form of morale failure, such as being pinned. Generally, I like some level of friction as it is one more choice that the player must make.

As I develop more ideas along this line I will be sure and post them.

7 comments:

  1. I don't own any of the Borg inspired titles but probably should get one or two. I'm sure you've already seen what Bob Corderey (sp?) and David Crook have done with MoMBat. I tried a LoTR Risk variant that was kind of fun but more strategic. I'm also looking forward to the free Big Battle Supplement for THW 5150. I was thinking of using it to fight out Squad Leader scenarios using NUTS.

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  2. I think, despite its name, Squad Leader is too high a command level for NUTS!. Squad Leader is a reinforced company in most of its scenarios, while NUTS! is a reinforce squad.

    You can download almost every set of Borg rules from the internet, and there are VASSAL modules for all of them (except for maybe the new Samurai Battles), so it is easy to give them a try, even solo.

    Maybe once I get this sorted out I can make a trip to Phoenix and we can give it a go.

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  3. Spearhead in 6mm. You'll thank me later.

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  4. Actually, I think I have a copy someone gave me once - although it may be Modern Spearhead - but switching to 6mm will definitely not make me happy.

    Besides, that game's scale is not tactical, is it? I thought it was more like Blitzkrieg Commander or Panzer Korps in scale. Off to TMP to look it up ...

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  5. I'll be keeping an eye on your progress Dale as I too will be switching to something along the lines of Memoir'44 for my own WWII gaming. I'm also moving away from 20mm to 10mm figures for this project so I'm basically starting over... which is a pain but hopefully it'll be worth the effort.
    Thanks for posting.
    Steve

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  6. Paul Swanson sent me an email, after trying (unsuccessfully) to post this comment:

    "The latest FOW ruleset was the final purchase that I will make from that company. I had hoped that those rules would remove some inconsistencies regarding point allocations and provide a more comprehensive points system as provided in the original FOW rulebook.

    I was greatly disappointed that the entire ruleset only provided meagre information on points (none of which were useful for my early to mid war eastern front period). Further rulebook purchases (to be released in a later date) would have been required and may still not have met my expectations. I approached Battlefront and explained my problem but they would not allow me to return the ruleset to them - it now gathers dust.

    I have now puchased Blitzkrieg Commander II. One purchase and that is the end of the matter - no further rulebook purchases will be required. There are comprehensive army lists and points. Although I have yet to play a game the system of play looks good (reviews that I read before purchase were also encouraging). I can use the FOW based figures without the need for rebasing. The items were easily purchased over the internet and were received in good order (I am in Australia).

    I am also looking at purchasing 15mm Command Decision troops from Old Glory as they seem compatible in size to FOW and will mean that my break with FOW will be final (although I am still have a small mountain of lead to be painted and based)."

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  7. Thanks Dale, I missed your follow up. You are correct on both counts as to scale. Ed is writing some sort of free mod for larger battles, I think rolling for groups rather than individuals. I will look up the rules and Vassal modules. And it would be cool to get together some time. Not sure my generalship is up to snuff but I'm used to losing.

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Huachuca City, Arizona, United States
I am 50 yrs old now. I bought a house in Huachuca City, AZ (although I have a townhouse in Houston, TX and a small home in Tucson, AZ) working on a contract for "the next two years" that is going on five years now. To while away the hours I like to wargame -- with wooden, lead, and sometimes paper miniatures -- usually solo. Although I am a 'rules junkie', I almost always use rules of my own (I like to build upon others' ideas, but it seems like there is always something "missing" or "wrong").