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.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

A Test Game of Company-level WW II Rules

I did a quick test game of the new Company-level WW II rules I am working on. (The working title is Memories of War – in homage to its origins – but it is just that, a working title.)

All I have worked on so far is infantry (small arms) fire, light anti-tank weapons, direct fire for mortars, and halftracks. With that started, I decided to throw the miniatures on the table and give the rules a try, to see where the problems are.

I decided to choose a small area – 9 squares wide by 7 squares deep (36" x 28") – with a simple objective: attack an enemy platoon dug in defense. Mind you, this game is not intended to be fair (it is one platoon attacking another platoon dug in, with no points advantage), nor is this an example of how to properly attack or defend in this situation. The goal was to get as much engaged as possible, looking at the interactions, and seeing if they "felt" right. With the excuses for my poor play out of the way, I present "Defense of Hill 327". (You can click on any image to see a larger, 800x600 pixel version.)

Yes, some artillery and smoke would have been nice for the Germans to have. Something to suppress those LMGs on the hill. As it played, however, I was fairly happy with the results. Infantry, even in woods, were not going to face off against two LMGs with impunity. The Germans thought they would be clever and creep up to the American line, using the MGs on the halftracks to pin the Bazooka skirmish line, but the 37mm anti-tank gun showed its usefulness.

Some changes from Flames of War that I allowed (or at least, some changes from the way I remember how they played):

  • Infantry units on hills can fire over infantry units as long as the target unit is farther from the intervening unit than the firer is from the intervening unit.
  • Anti-tank guns can fire over intervening infantry units that are dug-in or gone to ground.
  • Infantry count vehicles as concealment if either are moving, but as cover and concealment if both are stationary or if the vehicle is destroyed and in the same square.
  • MGs on halftracks (actually any open-topped vehicle's hull MG or co-axial MG, or any vehicle's AA MG) are subject to the effects of pinning, lowering their dice from 3 to 2 if pinned (while a .50 caliber MG would be lowered from 4 dice to 2).
  • A vehicle being destroyed in the same square as an infantry unit adds a (single) pin marker to it. The same applies to gun teams. (By default, unless a weapon indicates a separate ROF value when pinned, a weapon has an ROF of 1 when pinned. If it has a base ROF of 1, it cannot fire when pinned.)
  • A weapon with an ROF of 1 cannot fire on the move or when pinned. An exception would be if the weapon had stabilizers.
  • All infantry units in a square are hit by enemy units firing on that square. These hits are rolled separately, however. For example, if an LMG fires on a square with two infantry units in it, it would roll five dice separately against each unit. If the square is mixed – infantry and armored vehicles – the firer must state whether they are firing anti-personnel or anti-tank rounds. In that case the opposite unit type is not affected (i.e. anti-tank rounds do not affect infantry, etc.).
During play I realized that pin markers were racking up too high and that you would quickly get to a point where no one could move. The basic rule I was following was that a unit could roll two dice at the start of its turn to remove pin markers (Fearless 67% chance of success on each die, Confident 50%, and Reluctant 33%). With the basic chance of hitting (and thus inflicting a pin marker) on an infantry unit set at 50%, units were getting about 1-3 pin markers from concentrated fire. And as units were firing twice – once in their own turn and once in the enemy turn as defensive fire – pins were racking up fast. I then decided to limit the number of pin markers a unit could accumulate. Right now it is set at 3 for Fearless, 4 for Confident, and 5 for Reluctant, but it needs more testing. (It might be a case of "double jeopardy" to set the number of markers and the chance to remove those markers by morale rating. I think I might just limit it to four markers for all morale levels.)

One thing I like about these rules are that it is easier to see historical tactics in use. You can provide covering fire from some elements in an attempt to lay pin markers on enemy that might be able to sight your moving elements. It will not stop the enemy's fire, but it will generally restrict it.

I also liked ignoring the marginal cases, such as whether an MG or rifle could affect a halftrack. In Flames of War the infantry has an anti-tank value of '2', while a halftrack's armor rating is a '1'. So on a hit, if the halftrack rolled a '1' and the infantry rolled a '6' (1 chance in 36), the halftrack would have to bail out. In my rules I simply rate a rifle and an MG as unable to affect the halftrack at all. By the same token, a 37mm anti-tank gun has an anti-tank value of '7', meaning if it hits the halftrack must roll a '6' followed by the anti-tank gun rolling a '3' or less for the hit to not penetrate the halftrack; all other hits result in it being destroyed 50% or bailed out 50% of the time. I simplify this by giving the halftrack a simple save of 16%, per hit taken. (In addition, it takes a pin marker for each hit, if not destroyed.)

I have a lot of work remaining, however. Artillery bombardments are next and armored combat will be the big hurdle. I will keep reporting here as I make changes and progress.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Company-level WW II (3)

Some News First

A bit of things have gone on since the last blog entry, but not much to report. I have been gaming a bit, but it has all been solo, and even that has not produced any material for my Solo Battles blog.

I have been on purchasing overload – much to the "chagrin" of my wife, considering that I am currently still living on the pay-out from my last employer – and to be honest, it has not been possible to absorb them all. I liked the sound of Bolt Action, but before the book made it to my mail box several at the gang of The Miniatures Page seemed to have panned it. I started to listen to the WWPD podcast where they interviewed Rick Priestly, but to be honest, I could not get through it, it was so boring. Then I started listening to the Bolt Action (WWPD) podcast, and it was also boring. So, the book sat unread; I only looked at the pictures.

Now, that may all sound bad, but I got to a point where I was backed up in listening to podcasts, so I started rolling them while painting (some French Napoleonic Carabiniers, which has not hit the Wooden Warriors blog yet) and I accidentally hit the WWPD podcast with the Rick Priestly interview again (I had listened to the original on the new WWPD iPad application) and as I was on a roll with painting I simply let it run on. Turns out that the interview had a good nugget of information about Bolt Action at the end of it. I then hit the second episode of the Bolt Action podcast and it was much better. So much so that I decided it might be better to ignore the detractors and try it myself. Maybe that will come along soon.

Other purchases include Saga (impulse buy), Napoleon's Triumph (I have wanted that board game for awhile), and Volume One and Volume Two of Wally Simon's Secrets of Wargame Design. I have mentioned Wally Simon's game design ideas before in this blog because philosophically we agree on what makes a fun game. Here is an excerpt from the first volume – the opening paragraph in fact – that gives you an idea of what I mean:
I am an admittedly unadulterated, pure-bred gamer – as opposed to a war-gaming simulationist (one who stands at table-side and actually imagines he's re-creating what went on the battlefield a hundred or thousand years ago). My interests lie in the gaming procedures and trying to furnish the participants with a number of decision points throughout the battle … at least enough to keep them awake.
What really sold me on purchasing these books was an article in Miniature Wargames magazine, Issue 356, called Revolutionary Morale, which is an "article" within the first book. Great ideas are in there, so I figured why not get the whole package from On Military Matters? I have a few of the articles listed in those books – I used to subscribe to MagWeb, which had old copies of the PW Review and MWAN magazines where most of these articles first appeared – but many I read at all. Expect to see some ideas of Wally's come out here in my own designs.

Speaking of which …

More on the Company-level WW II Rules

I decided to start incorporating Wally's ideas in the turn sequence. I dislike those IGO-UGO games where the turn sequence has A move and fire everything before B can do anything. Wally called this "Gotcha' Gaming" and the new name is "the Alpha Strike". Games like Warhammer 40,000 and Flames of War are clear examples of this (despite WH40K adding overwatch and FOW having defensive fire at the start of assaults). So, the draft turn sequence will be:

  1. Attacker's Phase
    1. Attacker rallies off Pin markers.
    2. Attacker determines who obeys orders.
    3. Attacker conducts bombardment.
    4. Attacker conducts covering fire.
    5. Attacker moves.
    6. Defender conducts fire.
    7. Attacker conducts moving fire.
    8. Attacker conducts assaults.
  2. Defender's Phase
    1. … reverse of Attacker's Phase …
The idea here is that this allows a player to simulate the tactics of the period: lay down covering fire from one element while the other element maneuvers forward. The defenders get to fire on the advancing elements before they can fire upon you in turn. Although it is still IGO-UGO – this style has its uses, primarily by giving the game an episodic or event-driven feel.

I actually did play a test game – no pictures of the game in progress, sorry – and found out that it was off mathematically. I expected that of course, but fortunately do not have to change my dice  (maybe just add some icons). By the way, the dice I made are shown below.

And my board. I just added some "+" marks to the game mat I use (a micro fleece blanket).

The game went way too fast, which is what convinced me that the math is off. I want a faster game, but not 2-3 turns!

One concept from Bolt Action that I am stealing is the concept of multiple pin markers (i.e. tracking hits) and having that as a modifier to the unit being able to act. (By the way, they are not the first rules to use that concept, just the most recent.) So each hit adds a pin marker and each pin marker requires the roll of a morale die, all of which must be passed in order to act. (In the case of defensive fire, the unit failing the morale die roll uses its pinned firing rate of fire.) The draft morale die is shown below (three stripes equals a veteran, two for trained, and one for a conscript unit).

So, as an example of how this might all work is as follows. An HMG team conducts covering fire on an infantry team, rolling six "anti-personnel" firing dice. This results in three hits, so three pin markers are placed on the infantry team. The infantry is allowed three "anti-personnel" saving dice and obtains an amazing three saves! When the chance comes for the defender to conduct fire the infantry team has to roll three morale dice – one for each pin marker – and all have to be passed in order for the unit to fire. As the unit is veteran it basically has 67% to pass on any single die. Passing on all three dice means they have about a 30% chance to pass on all three. (Please note that this is rather an exceptional example, as the unit passed three saves in the first place, where only one would be the norm, unless the unit were in cover in which case each die would have about an 83% chance for a save.)

If this sounds pretty deadly, it should. We are talking about an HMG firing at an infantry unit in the open. A rifle team firing at a rifle team has about a 50% chance of getting a single hit, and there being a 16% chance for a save (33% for a veteran). Yes, this casualty rate is higher than Flames of War, but I am okay with that for now. This will force people to use more cover, concealment (hiding behind vehicles or in smoke), and covering fire.

I am hoping to get in a test game that is publishable soon. Now that I have the basic firing and saving dice made, all I need left are the morale and skill dice.

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About Me

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Huachuca City, Arizona, United States
I am 58 yrs old now. I bought a house in Huachuca City, AZ working for a software company for the last three years. 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").