Home Forums WWII Thoughts on tactical level game rules (Squad Leader scale) Reply To: Thoughts on tactical level game rules (Squad Leader scale)

John D Salt

As I understood the need to write orders made them complex enough that the application to a game table would be unworkable. Just the levels of detail and specifics.

I really don’t buy the argument that writing orders down makes things more complex. Since the pieces we play wargames with are, outside the realm of computer games, inanimate and unable to act by themselves, every single action a player wants them to perform has to be specified by the player. I see no reason why specifying the action in writing should be any more complex than specifying them in speech. Since I would expect orders to last more than one turn, it should arguably be less complex than specifying a fresh order every turn. Lots of wargamers dislike writing things down, but that doesn’t make it “complex”.

I like keeping the chits at platoon level. Then the platoon needs to fulfill the order but has flexibility as to how when where. Again as long as the orders don’t get too involved. Changing from one chit to the next would be an action forcing the platoon to hold for some small period of time to receive and verify changes. This level i can see and would be willing to attempt. BUT would the company commanders also be issued orders and would not these be more involved?

Quite right; and, in an ideal real-life C2 hierarchy, the platoon’s orders would have been extracted from the company’s orders, and the company’s orders from the battalion’s, and so on up to Army Group or whatever the top of the COC is. Also in real life, British Army commanders currently follow a thing called the “one-third/two-thirds” rule, which means that each level of command should take one-third of the available time before H to prepare and give its own orders, and leave the remaining two-thirds for subordinate commanders to prepare and give theirs. So, if a brigade gets an order to attack in six hours, the brigade staff should get two hours for planning, the battalions an hour and 20 minutes, the companies a bit over 50 minutes, platoons a bit over half an hour and platoons a bit over 20 minutes. One disastrous mistake is to skimp the time for orders at the lower levels, which means that the blokes at the sharp end do not get a full picture of their part in the plan. As reported in “Killer Butterflies”, in WW1 this sometimes meant a force successfully getting across no man’s land, fighting its way into an enemy trench, and successfully taking its objective, but then retiring when all its officers had become casualties because nobody more junior had been told what the plan was. As a contrasting example of good practice, an officer cadet I knew at Newcastle UOTC successfully passed his certificate of miltary training despite becoming a casualty right at the start of his platoon attack. He made his appreciation, gave his orders, and strode boldly off at the head of his men, only to fall into a tank trap. He heard the crack of his leg breaking, but, with commendable presence of mind, shouted “Sergeant, take command and carry on” as he subsided to the ground.

The old write an order down to follow is one of the parts of Wooden Ships & Iron Men I always loved. But applied to tactical ground games or air games they fall apart IMHO. Check Your 6 (CY6) has something similar in that you have to commit to a specific action sequence every turn. If you pilot is good enough they can deviate one action sequence either side of what is written down. Wings of war (or whatever it is/was called) you pick your next three actions as cards and have to follow them, without change, until the turn ends. No flexibility at all. Don’t like.

I’ve never played it, but the Wings of Thing rule strikes me as extremely silly. A much better method was presented at COW many years ago, where players laid cards in advance on a rolling basis, and a deeply cunning arrangement of patterns on the card edges restricted what cards could follow what others, so the player was limited in their next choice of card. But this, like the orders chits in SPI’s “Fighting Sail”, is supposed to show limits on the ability to maneouvre, rather than on C2.

Although I concur with your dislike in this case, imposing inflexibility on the player is one of the things C2 rules have to do, to reflect the limitations on a commander’s ability to do whatever they like. The old WRG ads used to say “no more telepathic heroes”, but there still seem to be plenty about.

ISTM there are two ways of limiting a player’s control. One is to limit the information available, by schemes of hidden movement or remote tabes as described by grizzlymc. In extreme cases, one might attempt a megagame, along the lines run by Jim Wallman and others. This is a lot of effort, and needs a lot of people, but has AIUI been done successfully with up to 50 people. I’ve never participated in a megagame, but I understand that once you have so many people involved there is absolutely no need for C2 rules of any kind to induce command chaos.

The other way is to let the player have information they wouldn’t really be entitled to know, but prevent them from acting on it. This is what orders written in advance do. For wargamers devoted to showing off beautifully-painted models, it does have the great advantage of getting the toys on the table where everyone can admire them.

Troops starting on the table edge has been solved so elegantly and effectively by Chain of Command’s patrol phase. Problem solved.

Absolutely not my point at all. The “problem” of starting both sides at the table edge has been solved for at least fifty years by starting them at places that aren’t the table edge. My point was that the asymmetry between attacker and defender could be exploited to try to ease the problems of modelling C2. The defender can know where everyone is, but cannot do anything about it because they are limited to their written plan. The attacker has no idea where the defender is, but can largely be relieved of the necessity of writing things down by expressing their plan in terms of objectives, targets, boundaries and so forth placed directly on the table. As the defender presumably has the smaller force, and will be doing less movement, they should have a much simpler plotting job than the attackers would if you used the same rules for each side.

All the best,