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.

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Falling Dominoes of the Mind

One of the reasons that I like to collect rules is because I have this nasty tendency of taking a bit from here and a bit from there and using it to tweak other rule systems. Sometimes when I latch onto a new system, I am amazed at how something reminds me of this other system, which is like this other system over there, and so on. Like dominoes falling in your mind.

Case in point was (some time back) finding a set of rules using Warhammer 40K figures and lore, but rules nothing like Warhammer 40K itself, in any of its incarnations. I started work on expanding it – largely because it covered only two army lists, one of which I did not have – but I kept getting tripped up over certain details. (By the way, the rules are the SciFi Company Action rules at Grid-based Gaming (but not always).)

The main issue was I did not know that these rules were heavily based on the Tank on Tank rules by Lock n' Load, which I was not familiar with either. So I didn't 'get' the concepts behind them. Thus 'tweaking' them wasn't working.

To make a long story short, Tank on Tank is listed as an introductory board game focusing mainly tank battles of WW II. It does, however, include infantry, artillery, anti-tank guns, supply, positions, and air power, so it is not tanks exclusively. Although there are stat lines for each counter, which seems to represent either a platoon or company of the unit type, they are not detailed stat lines like you would find with other WW II games that include tanks, like Flames of War, Bolt Action, or Tank! Actually, there are only three stats: range, defense, and movement. Interestingly there is no offense or firepower stat. (A variant does sort of add an offense stat, but it is more of a modifier. More on that later.)

So, a Panther would have a range of 3 hexes, a movement of 2 hexes, and require a die roll of 10 or more on 2D6 to be destroyed. A Sherman on the other hand, has a range and movement of 2 hexes and require a die roll of 9 or more to be destroyed.

Now, you may be wondering, doesn't the Panther get a bump in killing the Sherman because of its better gun? No. Whether firing from a Panzer IV or a Panther, it still takes a 9 or more to destroy the Sherman. I think this is largely because of the scale of what the counter represents. It is not a single tank, but rather a unit of that tank type. Largely the lesson of this rule set is concentration of firepower and that is reflected in the primary modifier to the die roll is adding the number of units that are firing upon the target. So, if I have two units firing on the Sherman unit (let's call it a platoon), you receive +1 per unit firing at it, with an additional +1 if one or more units are firing from the flank. (There are also terrain modifiers. You can download the rules for free if you want to explore it more thoroughly.) As you can see, putting more units on the target increases the chances of taking out the target. Killing the King Tiger, with its Defense of 12, is done by putting more firepower to bear on the unit, especially putting at least one on the flank, so you have a decent chance for a kill.

This started me thinking about the rules Ritter, Fusilier, Ein Ritter Spiel, etc. that I reviewed some time ago and played a test game with. The concept in those rules was to also bring multiple units to bear on a single target in order to achieve a kill, for example three musketeers firing on a single infantry unit will defeat it. I have always wanted to make a more modern version of Ein Ritter Spiel and it seems like combining these two offers an interesting, if simple set of rules. Ein Panzer Spiel!

Actually, I always think it is better to get the role of infantry right first, so I started thinking about the role of machine guns and rifles. How many WW II rules have you played and you thought that simulating the tactics of covering fire and maneuver just didn't play out in the rules? Bolt Action and Flames of War come to mind for me. (If I remember correctly it worked out fine with Hail of Fire though.) Bottom line though is fire and maneuver, suppression fire, and killing fire all need to be modeled out.

For example, you could create these rules to model suppression fire:
  • A machine gun unit will suppress the fire of an infantry unit for the remainder of the turn.
  • Two infantry units can suppress the first of an infantry unit for the remainder of the turn.
Now let's look at a corresponding set of killing rules:
  • A machine gun unit and one infantry unit will kill an infantry unit in the open that they both can target.
  • Three infantry units will kill an infantry unit in the open that they all can target.
Using this idea as a basis, I could see developing a set of deterministic combat rules based on the Ritter Spiel model. That said, I know that deterministic combat systems are not that popular. Everyone likes to model chaos by adding a chance element.

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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").