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.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Testing Hail of Fire, Part Two

Continuing on with my test game of Hail of Fire (Beta) by Retroboom, and available from Wargame Vault. If you missed it, you can find Part One here.

Turn 03

The Americans get three orders and the Germans get one.

The reconnaissance platoon gets the order to fire. The previous hit against the recon jeep team from the sniper needs to resolved ... and it comes up destroyed. The German sniper team has killed the crew!

The recon jeep team is destroyed
By the way, I forgot to define the mortar jeep team in the reconnaissance platoon.
Mortar Jeep: Soft-Skin
M2 60mm Mortar: 24" range, ROF 2, AVA -, AT -, Can fire over friendly troops, HE
The reconnaissance platoon fires at the same team in the grenadier platoon that it did last time and scores only one hit. There are now a total of six hits on that platoon. Again, the Germans pass on reacting.

The Americans decide that they need some infantry, so they order the armored infantry platoon onto the board. They will still be mounted in their vehicles, so they move 2D6". They want to pass by the farm house south of the road (the objective for the Germans) up to the vineyards, where they will let the infantry dismount. They roll an '8', which means they fall well short of reaching the dismount point. The Germans do not react.

The American armored infantry move on in their half-tracks
The Americans have one more order, but the likely move by the Germans is to order their armor onto the board, which is far enough away that the Americans are unlikely to be able to react. With that in mind the Americans use their last order to move the armored infantry one more time, to see if they can get the infantry into the vineyards.

There are no rules for embarking or disembarking from transports, so I am going to take a guess that, because the author intends each order to be very granular, it is going to take a full move order, rather than a traditional 1/2 move of the transports, like other rules. So that means that the infantry essentially roll a move and measure from the vehicle to see how far they can deploy1. Given the distance, I am going to make a transport move for another 7". (And I seem to have lost that picture! No matter.)

As expected, the Germans move their assault gun platoon onto the board with a spectacular 17" move (includes the road bonus)! The assault guns are now within long range of the half-tracks.

The StuGs come clanking up the road

Turn 04

The Americans get three orders and act first while the Germans get two orders.

With the StuGs in sight the armored infantry platoon take a move order and disembark the infantry. (There do not appear to be any 'disembark from the flaming transport' rule yet, so I did not want to take a chance.) The infantry can move 6". The Germans do not react.

The American armored infantry platoon dismounts into the vineyard
The Shermans really need to deploy, but they are bottle-necked in their position. Rather than solving the issue, the Americans decide to try and put the Germans on their back foot. They order another Sherman platoon onto the board, only this time they are going to come down the northwest road, threatening the flank of the assault gun platoon. They get a 13" move down the road.

The Shermans move on (view from the north)
The Germans react by moving the assault gun platoon across the ford and into the outskirts of the village. Fortunately for the Americans, that is just outside of short range for the German StuGs (24") to the Shermans.

The StuGs ford the river and are in the outskirts of the village
The Shermans on the central road still have to do something though. They need to deploy into line, and if possible, get into their short range (16"). If they can just get a big roll ... they get a '6'. [sigh] 1" away for the lead Sherman to get into short range! So the best they can do is stay out of the StuGs short range, sitting at 25" away.

The Shermans advance cautiously
The Germans react by firing with the StuGs, but they miss all shots.

Turn 05

Initiative switches to the Germans as they get four orders and the Americans get two.

With the armored infantry platoon in the vineyard it is time to resolve the fire on the grenadier platoon and let them open fire before it is too late. As it turns out four of the five teams are suppressed, including the platoon leader, and one of the teams is destroyed.

More than 2/3rds of the grenadier platoon is suppressed or dead
It is at this point that I notice that infantry teams are rated as Rifle, MG, or SMG, but there is no Rifle/MG team. I decide that for every Rifle/MG team firing, the even numbered teams will count as Rifle and the odd numbered ones will count as MG. A pitiful five dice fire at concealed targets, scoring two hits. One American rifle team and one bazooka team take a hit each.

Weak fire against the American infantry in the vineyard
The armored infantry react by trying to form a skirmish line. First they have to resolve the hits. They are in soft cover so there is a greater chance they will be destroyed, but both teams are only suppressed. The infantry rolls a 4" move while the half-tracks roll an 8" move. The half-tracks moving through the vineyard need to pass a quality check or stop after moving 1" into the terrain.

The American infantry keeps pushing for the hedges
First I have some housekeeping: I did not read the rule very well when I thought it said that the attacker was placing an objective on their side, rather than on the defender's side. Makes a lot more sense. So the farm house is no longer the objective, but rather this wrecked Marder.
Second objective is in the northeast corner, along the north road
Also, there is a chit system to determine when the game ends and who wins. At the beginning of every turn the attacker must pull a chit for each objective that have not captured and still hold. That means that means that I have to pull two chits for turns 2, 3, 4, and 5 and when the total reaches 18, the Americans have lost. After pulling 8 times the American score is 11. Yikes!

One more thing. The author said that it is a rule (not yet in the game) that revealing an observer would not start Turn 1. Although he did not have rules for snipers, he would have included them in that rule of who would not trigger Turn 1. Given that, I will give the Americans back one more turn, which lowers their chit score to 9. (He really needs to come up with a name for that score. Break Point?)

Okay, so now the Americans really need to get on their horses. I don't think that the rest of the defenders are going to make it on before the Americans break and run!
The Germans spend another order to fire with the grenadier platoon, in an attempt to rally before the Americans roll over them. Three of the four teams pass, with only the platoon leader failing! The Germans get to roll a respectable 11 dice this time, scoring two hits.

Grenadiers rally and put more fire on the American armored infantry platoon
I would love to react with the Americans, but they really need to capture that Marder objective and slow the Break Point clock down, so they need their order for the Shermans on the north road later.

The Germans use an order for their StuGs to fire at the Shermans on the central road. They score one hit on the Sherman platoon. Now here is something not mentioned in the rules – but don't worry folks, the author is reading this blog post – the hits are not resolved until the unit takes an order, just like infantry, but when you resolve it later you really need to remember the AT of the hit and whether it was taken at long range (because it gets +1 to its armor) and whether it was a flank shot. So I am going to use hit markers with numbers on them, with the number indicating the AT of the hit. An "L" will designate it was a long range shot and an "F" will indicate whether it was a flank shot.

Sherman takes a AT 3 hit on the front armor (it should also have an "L" for long range)
With one order left the Germans decide to shift initiative to the Americans.

The Shermans on the north road continue to move down the road towards the objective. Mind you, only one of three on-board, hidden units has been revealed so far (the sniper being free), so the Shermans are definitely expecting the anti-tank guns to pop out. You can definitely feel their caution as they roll a '4' (on 2D6) and get a move of 10" down the road.

Now the Germans have two options. With a 10" move they can only spot a gun team 0" away (4" after they stop moving), so I could put them in the woods to the southeast of them. The other option, and one I originally considered, was across the river and behind the hedge line. The latter position covers down the road in case any more reinforcements come (there are none, other than the company command, which I have failed to bring on yet), while also covering the objective without having to move. The woods, however, immediately gives a short-ranged flank shot.

One possible ambush position
(For the keen-eyed of you those at NOT anti-tank gun models, but infantry guns. I could not find my 75mm anti-tank guns, only 88mm ones, so went with these models.)

I decide to take the hedge position as pivoting the guns in the confining space of the woods would be a nightmare. The Germans reveal and orders opportunity fire. They have four shots at short range, scoring one lousy hit!

The PaK40s open up and hit the Shermans (the marker should be a "4L", not a "3")
(I noticed later that a PaK40 has a '4' AT, not a '3').

The Americans suddenly remember Sgt. Rock is in that Sherman platoon (I remembered I had four Hero points I could spend)and decide to drive on to the objective. But first we need to resolve that fire. The RFP has an AT of 3 and the Sherman has an armor of 1, so one Ping die is rolled and two Penetration dice are rolled. One Penetration die has no effect, as does the Ping die. The other Penetration die, however inflicts a hit (presumably of the same AT?) requiring the tank to check again next activation. Some sort of delayed effect, I suppose? (I am sure the author will chime in and tell me.) There is nothing stating that it is affected in any other way, so I allow it to move with the rest of the platoon. They get a 11" move (17" if they stay on the road)! They bag the objective!

Objective captured!

Turn 06

One of the previous two chits I drew are now applied as they have still failed to take one objective, so the Americans are at an 10 Break Point (BP). The Germans now need to pull two chits – one for not having one of the objectives and one for having enemy turns on its half of the table – and gets a total of 3.

The Germans have four orders and the Americans two.

The Germans order their anti-tank guns to fire at the Shermans on the objective. At short range they score two hits.

The PaK40s hit the Shermans again
The Americans react by firing. The first Sherman now has four penetration dice to resolve and two ping dice. The two hits stay on, but nothing else happens. "Hey Charlie, do you smell smoke?"

The second Sherman is destroyed.

One Sherman goes up in flames!
The Shermans open up with their machine guns, rolling 8 @ -1 (concealment), scoring two hits. Rats! There is only a 16% chance that they are not suppressed (or dead)! They have effectively shut down the anti-tank platoon! The Germans move with the assault gun platoon, shifting to the right, towards the objective while still protecting their flank from the Shermans on the central road by using the buildings to block line of sight.

The StuGs are moving so fast the cameraman can't get a clear shot! The Shermans are flanked.
Now here is an interesting nuance of the rule in giving orders. You can only give an order to react if you have been fired upon – by returning fire or moving – or if an enemy just moved into view. As one of the StuGs was visible when the Shermans moved to the objective, this is not a unit they have not seems before, so they cannot react. The Germans have gotten the drop on them because the Americans chose to ignore them. The assault guns fire at the Shermans with six dice. Ouch! Five hits.

Fortunately for the Americans, no more than two hits can be registered against each team in one fire order, so one hit is dropped.

The Shermans are really racking up the hits
The problem is, this fire is not resolved and won't be until the unit is given an order, which may be never. That means they will keep counting as on objective and on my half of the board until they are eliminated. (For that reason alone, they are not going to react and resolve the hits yet.) The answer is: infantry assault, That will either destroy the tanks or force them to retreat (if the Germans win the assault.) Besides, I need to try out the assault rules!

The Germans reveal the Company 2iC with attached Panzerschreck team.

Captain Schmidt appears in the rear with the Panzerschreck team

In Flames of War a panzerschreck team as a tank assault value of '5', while a panzerfaust has a tank assault value of '6'. In terms of AVA in Hail of Fire, it should be pretty high. (A 'Bazooka/'Shreck' is listed as an AVA '4'. A bazooka team in Flames of War is a two-man team with a tank assault value of '4'. A panzerschreck 'team' is four men with two tubes. I think I will use a '5' for the panzerschreck team and a '6' for the panzerfaust as the other AVA values seem to match the Flames of War tank assault values.)

The Germans order the 2iC's command into an assault. Will he make it (he is more than 4" away)? Yes! (You didn't expect otherwise, did you?)

Step 1: Assaulting unit must pass a quality check. Success.

Step 2: Teams not assaulting may fire. None.

Step 3: Any unsuppressed enemy teams within 8" of the assaulting teams may fire. That would be the Shermans. But here is a catch! The rules say that the teams "may be issued a Fire order , without requiring Order Points be spent." So they WILL have to resolve those hits prior to taking their defensive fire. (I assume they could also opt not to fire, but I don't think they would do that in this dire circumstance. Who knows. I haven't studied the odds yet.)

The first Sherman, who was smelling smoke, has to survive eight penetration dice and five ping dice. (I finally took into account that PaK40 hit correctly.) Boom! The Sherman platoon leader has to face four penetration dice and two ping dice. Boom!

The Sherman platoon is wiped out. The Germans regain the objective.
Wow! That was exciting! And, that immediately raises the American Break Point by 3 (2 chit draws) to 13.

Step 4: Close combat. None.

Step 5: Check who won. Germans.

Step 6: Losers retreat. None.

Hmmmm. There is no Step 7 that says the winner takes the loser's position. I allow it as it is pretty traditional. The Germans take back the objective.

The Americans take their last order and move their armored infantry platoon forward. Two more rifle teams are suppressed and infantry moves 3".

The armored infantry hit the hedge line. The LMGs are in position

Turn 7

The Americans draw two more chits for a whopping 5, bringing the game to a close as they hit their Break Point of 18.

Final Thoughts

So, the defender only revealed and used a small fraction of their force. When I started playing I was sure that the reinforcement system was "broken", because it was so hard to get forces on the board. I still think that a unit that makes the roll to come on board should not have to wait until the next turn to move them. If you have the orders, you should be able to roll on. But, it is not that critical. What does seem a waste is that a '5' on the reinforcement roll brings on individual stands. Total waste to me. Never used those teams at all. Either allow the whole unit on with a '5' or else it means no reinforcements.

With everything else I think my only complaint is a trivial one and easily explained away: there are a lot of undefined rules, weapons and vehicle data, and so on. Taking on WW II is a huge undertaking. Now if you are a rules writer, it could also be a gold mine if people like your rules because you can sell army and campaign books, just like Battlefront did very successfully with Flames of War. But I think people are going to shy away from that commercial concept. So how long will it take for the author to actually finish this?

If, as the author states, he was looking to create a system that allows someone who used to play Flames of War (like me) and wants to use their troops without rebasing, then you can probably assume that said person also has a lot of old Flames of War books. If you really want to draw those ex-Flamers, maybe coming up with a guide for converting Flames of War data to Hail of Fire stats would be just the ticket. As I noted in the assault description, the AVA values seem very similar to the tank assault values. There is a start.

As for the rules themselves, I again have to state again that the rules for handling and deploying hidden troops are simple, but well done and using them makes for a fascinating game. The author indicated that some people that have tried his game shake their heads and then simply deploy everything on the board and play it straight. They are missing out. I think that if they play a game against someone who uses the hidden deployment rules well, they would get crushed and start coming around to that way of playing.

I hope I played the Resolved Fire Check correctly in relation to assaults. If it does not play that way – i.e. if the unit defending in the assault does not have to resolve the hits before conducting defensive fire – then that portion of the rules are broken. (I suspect that I played it correctly though.) An infantry assault is just the ticket to force an armor unit sitting on an objective to finally resolve the hits so you can see if it dies or not.

I am not sure I like getting a hit as a result for resolving a hit on armor. I would like to hear the rationale for it before deciding.

One thing that felt "wrong" was resolving hits on armor. Because the resolution is delayed, it produces a "correct" result, in my opinion. The problem is that the resolution is complicated by factors from the hit itself. I solved it by putting numeric and letter designations on the hit markers, but it still is clunky when it comes time to resolve them. Maybe rather than rolling a number of dice equal to your AT for each hit, you figure out how to make placing one hit for each point of AT work. Subtract one for long range, add one for flank? I don't know. This is the one component of the game that felt out of place because of its comparative complexity.

The last item that struck me was how easy it was to suppress a gun team. Rather than treating a gun shield as hard cover or some such rule, perhaps it can reduce the chance of suppression. It just seemed like with the number of dice being thrown by tanks with their hull and co-axial MGs it was too easy to suppress a major portion of the anti-tank gun platoon's firepower. (In my case, all of it.)

Well, I hope you enjoyed this little peek into Hail of Fire (Beta). I certainly enjoyed playing it.

Update

Wow! I feel like I have to post an update for those that have not read this yet, as I got so much wrong. That happens when I try to skim rules and deep read them later and I get the wrong ideas in my head.

The main issue is with Anti-Tank fire. I did the small arms fire against the Jeep correctly, but all of the fire against the Shermans was done incorrectly.

All anti-tank fire is resolved immediately, so you don't need to mark hits or anything. Just roll the dice on the Ping and Penetration tables as indicated. One of the results on those tables, however is to get a Received Fire Point (RFP). This is the same as a hit by small arms fire; RFPs get resolved as soon as a unit receives an order and before it carries out that order. It is resolved by rolling on the Received Fire Check (RFC) table. You roll one die for each RFP on the team. Vehicle teams always count as being in hard cover on the RFC table.

This has serious implications, however (unless the author tells me I have gotten it wrong, yet again), as this now means that you can suppress an Armored Vehicle teams by getting an RFP from a Ping or a Penetration.

The other item I missed was that the Break Point is not calculated by each side, but for the game as a whole. Each side still keeps its own score though. Because there were ten units total (four Americans and six Germans) the Break Point would have been 30, not 18 for the Americans and 22 for the Germans. So if you thought the game ended awful soon – I did – well, you were right. If you wish to follow the post-mortem, it is here on TMP.

Footnotes

1 Asked and answered by the author. To embark or disembark it is a move by the infantry. The transports do not move on that order.

5 comments:

  1. Superb write up, especially as feedback for the author.

    i can see the delayed penetration result causing some interesting nuances, but it does feel counter-intuitive and what if the target decides not to receive orders and instead just sit there as a potential threat for much of the game, It seems right from the point of view of upping more shells into it - just to make sure, but seems wrong that unlucky dice might bring these back into play.at some awkward point having shrugged off all of their hits. I am sure that I am missing some aspect of this.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Apparently I missed the point. According to the author all AT fire should resolve immediately, not just fire at moving units in the open. This still leaves some unanswered question. But you can see all that I did wrong here: http://theminiaturespage.com/boards/msg.mv?id=437706&page=1

      Delete
  2. Thank you Dale for posting your Hail of Fire thoughts and AAR. I have the most recent rules and they seem interesting but have been distracted on other projects. As you may remember, I really really like your reviews and detailed battle reports, they really help with understanding where the rules are coming from.

    ReplyDelete
  3. great writing and production :) From my response on TMP:

    "Clarifications: The big one… AT Fire. When your instincts told you AT rules seemed over complicated and out of place, they were right. RFP resolution is delayed, Pen and Ping rolls are not. After to-hit rolls are made and allocated, Pen and Ping dice are rolled immediately. Any RFPs generated are assigned and resolved later as normal, and a destroyed result would of course mean destroyed.

    The thought behind this is that, unlike firing at infantry where the only way to tell the effectiveness of the fire is to either go in and check, or see them firing back or moving, if the turret of the tank blows off, everyone can tell immediately. No need for delayed resolution there. The RFPs generated can still roll a "Killed" result later when activated, which represents either the crew deciding to abandon the vehicle (which might not be obvious to everyone down range immediately) or the tank taking a minute or two before visibly brewing up. Also, there's obviously the practical benefits of this approach as its easy to play and doesn't require any additional markers not already being used. Let me know if that makes sense.

    About suppressing the AT guns; Like everything else, this may need rebalancing/reconsideration, however I can share that the theory behind it is that yes they are probably shut down for a turn (there's always the possibility of rolling that 6!!! But yeah not likely) but they attempt to rally with every order given.So if they don't rally with the first fire order given, they're likely to with the second one (especially if there's an unsuppressed leader close by). This becomes a choice of where to allocate those order points. Spend multiple points to unsuppress and fire the guns, or move in the StugS. That's the thought behind it anyway. Also of note is that you deployed the guns all clumped up together, which allowed the possibility of suppressing every team with a single order, instead of requiring multiple orders to silence every gun (and potentially allowing return fire orders from the remaining gun in reaction).

    Opportunity fire isn't only eligible the first opportunity the enemy comes into LoS. If they move in LoS, an opportunity fire order can be given. I notice that I use the language, "Opportunity Fire on a Unit that just moved within their Line of Sight (LoS)" which could be confusing, so I'll try to address that.

    Lastly, I believe you ended the game very early. If I'm counting right, there are 11 units in this game so 10 plus 2 points per unit would be 33 points to break. I think maybe the confusion is you making 2 different "Break Points" (good name) for each force by only adding up all units on a side rather than ALL units in the game.

    You can be sure I'll look through the post again when I get home and will let you know if I see anything else. Thank you again for the help!"

    ReplyDelete
  4. Really liking what I'm seeing here!

    ReplyDelete

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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").