Home Forums General Game Design Assault rules for WWII?

Viewing 14 posts - 1 through 14 (of 14 total)
  • Author
  • #49493
    Avatar photoRetroboom

    As I find time I’m trying to polish and cement Hail Of Fire to the point of removing the beta tag as soon as possible (probably a few more months since I don’t get to playtest nearly as often as I’d like).

    One area I’m not satisfied with are the assault rules. I’ve been trying to find a system that was as quick as possible while still including all the important variable/narrative I’d like (an unending struggle I know). I’ve had several people ask me for clarification on how they work, which is mostly do to poor writing on my part, and I think I’ve succeeded at least partially in subsequent updates, but I think the mechanism is slower and more flawed than I’d originally thought. For one thing, I just encountered that its possible for both sides to wipe each other out to a man. That’s definitely not what I’m going for.

    Shaun Travers made a blog post about making up a simple war game to play with his kids, found here: link

    His assault rules seem rather brilliant on first glimpse: “Close combat was each figure rolls a d6 with 4+ a hit, +1 if in cover, +1 if charging. Compare hits – winner loses 1 figure, loser loses the difference (up to 3) and retreats.”

    I haven’t had a chance to simply try these out (perhaps should be doing that instead of writing this) but it seems excitingly simple and evocative.

    The game is company level WWII. With stands representing teams/half-squads. “Assaults” happen when stands move into contact with each other, with multiple stands activating and moving together at the same time. This move into contact and resolution is meant to represent the closing of the last 30 yards or so.

    When one side assaults, all unsuppressed enemy teams within 8″ get defensive fire. Then there are 2 rounds of fighting with both sides rolling a die for each unsuppressed team within 2 inches of enemy, rolling against the quality of their troops (3+, 4+, 5+ on d6) each success destroys an enemy team, failure suppresses. Then roll again for all teams (unsuppressed and suppressed). Success removes teams, failure suppresses teams. Hits against tanks requires an additional step.

    After the second round, count up all unsuppressed teams within 8″ of the assaulting teams. Whoever has fewer loses and must move their teams out of 4″ of the enemy otherwise the teams are destroyed.

    This has worked out alright and is usually quick, but can be confusing to read and figure out for the first time, and also like I mentioned, has the rare potential to wipe out both sides completely at the same time.

    If any of you have played or read Hail of Fire (or if you haven’t, its free at wargamevault) do you have any suggestions on how to improve the assaults system, or have other favorite system that I should look at?


    Richmond, VA. Let's play!

    Avatar photoMike

    I did buy a copy of HOF but have yet to read it, sorry.
    I will remember to come back here and say something a little more useful when I have some clue what I am on about!

    Avatar photoPatrice

    I just encountered that its possible for both sides to wipe each other out to a man. That’s definitely not what I’m going for. (…) do you have any suggestions on how to improve the assaults system, or have other favorite system that I should look at? Thanks!

    I haven’t played wit these rules, but a similar question arose years ago about my skirmish game system (all periods, originally medieval) where it often happened that two opponents fighting in melee could kill each other simultaneously (or have to recoil simultaneously). We added a simple sentence to the rules, which reads: “If two opponents simultaneously roll a “hit” result (or a “recoil” result), only the higher class one kills his enemy (or forces him to recoil). If they are same class, the highest armour (4 or 5) kills his enemy (or makes him recoil). If they are same class and armour, the highest natural die kills his enemy (or makes him recoil)”.

    It means that in a case were the two opponents are both killed in the basic rules, (1) only the best fighter kills the other one (example: “elite” vs “green”, only green is killed) ; (2) if they are same quality, the best armoured (in a medieval context, this can be adapted to anything else) kills the other one ; (3) if same quality and armour, the guy who rolled the higher natural die kills the other one. It was a big improvement to the rules. It can still happen that both are killed but it’s rare; and we also realized that this rule gave more importance to elite troops in melee.


    Avatar photoJohn D Salt

    Having had a very brief gander at the rules, Mr. Picky is manfully restraining himself from commenting on some of the terminology and organisations, but rather likes the look of the deferred combat resolution (and hence tactical uncertainty) embodied in the “received fire” checks (though I suspect you might be killing people rather too often). One of the things about dismounted close combat is that “it is next to impossible to inflict loss on men behind cover with direct rifle fire” (Sir Andrew Skeen, “Passing It On”). Even if casualties are inflicted, it is very hard to tell on the “empty battlefield”, because the habit of hiding is rapidly acquired by anyone who wishes to stay alive. One of the advantages of an assault, therefore, is that, once your blokes have fought through the objective, you pretty much know that there are no active enemy left on it — something it is effectively impossible to be sure of any other way. With that in mind, I would favour a quick and brutal mechanism to resolve assaults. I would also suggest that the attacker should risk suffering very badly if there are any unsuppressed defenders. However, I wouldn’t worry about the odds ratio of assaulters to defenders, which I suspect is largely irrelevant (see Griffith’s “Forward into Battle” and Rowland’s “Stress of Battle”). At Spion Kop, the battle was ultiamtely decided by only about a half dozen men going forward with fixed bayonets; a similar numnber followed Major Kiszeley to clear the peak of Tumbledown.

    If we believe Rowland’s historical research (and I don’t know of anything better to believe in), then there is a shock effect of being the subject of an infantry close assault, which is enhamced by poor visibility or low defender morale, which kicks in at about 100m (other sources of shock work better and further out). Recalling Tumbledown, before leading the assault Kiszeley shouted “Are you with me?” and got the response “Aye, Sir, we’re f***ing with ye”. It would therefore seem reasonable to make morale checks for the assaulter first, then, if the assult goes ahead, the defender. Defenders who hold steady and shoot should be capable of inflicting devastating loss on the assault party, as for example recounted in an episode in Jary’s “`18 Platoon”. Suppressed defenders, however, should be swept up, probably automatically, either as prisoners or casualties. So a sequence something like this might work:

    1. Assaulters take assault morale check, augmented by leader hero points if desired. If it fails, do nothing; if it succeeds go on to 2.
    2. Unsuppressed defenders take morale check to stand. Unsuppressed defenders that fail the check flee; if they succeed they go on to 3.
    3. Remaining unsuppressed defenders fire defensive fire at assaulters, resolving “received fire” checks immediately. Suppressed assaulters go to ground.
    4. If any unsuppressed assaulters remain, they fight through; unsuppressed defenders are destroyed, suppressed defenders made prisoner. Move assaulters to their final locations on the assaulted position.
    5. Take a morale check for all surviving assaulters, to reflect the adrenalin rush and confusion they have just been through.

    Such a sequence should be fairly easy to follow, and I think not produce many arguments. I don’t think it should be possible for it to end in mutual annihilation. If people can’t pass their initial assault morale check, or think the whole assaulting proposition too dangerous, then opposing forces might spend quite a time in close proximity “bickering” without any decisive result, which has been known to happen. Once an assault is launched, however, it should end decisively one way or the other quite quickly. The successful assaulters may be very vulnerable toi a quick counter-attack, and prisoners may be taken — possibly more than there are assaulters — both of which I think are quite convincing possibilities, but which mysteriously never seem to be reflected in wargames rules.

    I like the idea of “hero points”, by the way, but I was not so keen on having a mechanism to regenerate them — as Lord Moran had it, “A man’s courage is his capital, and he us always spending”.

    All the best,


    Avatar photoRetroboom

    Thanks guys! Lots to consider here!

    John, thanks for taking a peek at the rules 😀 Also thank’s for restraining Mr. Picky, though I’m still curious what your potential corrections/adjustments would be. As for shooting being too lethal, I’m sure you’re right, realistically. Though I’ve made an effort to represent that exact concept at least a little more authentically than I often see in other games. Specifically that troops in or behind hard cover are only destroyed on a roll of 1 when resolving received fire checks. They also have the option to go to ground, in which case they ignore killed results completely. They’re still just as easy to suppress as guys in the open, but as long as they keep their heads down, the only way to kill them (or reveal that they’re dead) is to assault the position. I think we’re at least somewhat on the same page here, though I’m all ears if you have opinions/suggestions on tweaks you’d possibly like to see.

    In a previous version of the rules, I had each team rolling off against another team they were in contact with. I’ve attempted to evolve it to where both sides simply roll for all their teams at once. Hopefully that approach can be maintained. John, I find your suggested process for assaults super interesting! I’m intrigued at the idea that troop quality manifests itself as the troop’s will to fight, rather than his technique. My immediate concern would mostly be that suppressing an enemy team is currently not too difficult to do, so if suppressed teams automatically get wiped out/taken prisoner (which mechanically is simple and appealing to me), I worry it would actually make the assault not difficult or risky. Also, currently regular troops pass morale on 4+, so unsuppressed defenders would flee, presumably from their cover, 50% of the time. That might actually be reasonably accurate I (I don’t know), though it doesn’t fit the narrative I’ve previously been going for.

    Thanks again guys and I look forward to more of your thoughts!

    Richmond, VA. Let's play!

    Avatar photoRetroboom

    Hey guys, the assault rules have continued to slowly evolve and improve, but I’ve been thinking there’s a better way to do it or a while

    I have a new idea and curious if you have any surface level feedback. The current version uses a variant of Shaun’s idea, with teams moving into contact, all enemy teams within 8″ getting a “free” defensive fire (no need to spend an order point) and then both sides rolling quality checks, with the side that rolled more inflicting that many hits (usually kills) and the other player inflicting a max of one hit (if any).

    This plays really fast in practice, but there are a lot of little loop holes and exceptions which can pop up, meaning the rules just keep getting longer and longer, and can be difficult to explain to new players. I’d rather have something really clear, with minimal exceptions, even if it means multiple rolls to resolve the fight rather than just the one.

    What I’m thinking is this:

    Teams in base contact activate for free (no order point needed). Teams in contact roll to shoot as normal, but may only hit the team they are in contact with and ignore +1 penalty if concealed. Targets resolve RFPs immediately and as though in the open, even if in hard cover. When in contact, AT is +1 against armor and always against flank. Enemy teams in contact with friendlies can’t be targeted by teams not in contact with them.

    That’s it, those are all the rules (I think…). No more special AT rating when in assault. No more free defensive fire from teams within 8”. No more checking unsurpassed team within 8″.

    So assaulters would move into contact, assaulted teams could shoot back for free, needing 4+’s and resolving RFPs regardless of cover. Ideally they’re suppressed with RFPs on them so that they can’t fight back before you get your first swings. Those defenders may think it wiser to simply move away. Because teams in base to base with enemy activate for free, they’re likely to go back and forth until resolved. Though You can focus elsewhere if you really want.

    If assaulting tanks, they’re likely to just move away from you, which I think is perfectly fair. running down armor trying to assault it sounds ridiculous when you say it out loud.

    Gun teams will continue to fire like normal in their forward 90º arc, so assaulters will want to land on their flank when possible.

    Any thoughts?

    Richmond, VA. Let's play!

    Avatar photoPhil Dutré

    The real question is, of course, whether you need “assault” rules at all. I would say a ruleset can work perfectly as well by limiting your combat rules to fire only, esp for modern periods (including WW2).

    Avatar photoMike Headden

    “The real question is, of course, whether you need “assault” rules at all. I would say a ruleset can work perfectly as well by limiting your combat rules to fire only, esp for modern periods (including WW2).” – Phil Dutré

    For me a close assault is a completely different beast to a firefight. A WW2 rule set that doesn’t include close assault rules is like an Ancients set that only includes melee combat, IMHO. Of course, as always, YMMV!

    There are 100 types of people in the world, those who understand binary and those who can work from incomplete data

    Avatar photoMartinR

    It depends what is included in the ‘fire’ bit. In WRG 1925-50, TAC:WW2 and CD, very close range fire gets all sorts of special bonuses which might be considered to be ‘close assault’ by another name, but as John points out, the dynamics of infantry close assault are very different to those of the firefight and might be better modelled by a different mechanic.




    "Mistakes in the initial deployment cannot be rectified" - Helmuth von Moltke

    Avatar photoRetroboom

    What’s realistic or necessary for the subject matter is always debatable. All that really matters is the narrative you’re trying to tell. For me, I like the narrative of infantry being nigh-indestructible if in cover at range. Achieving fire superiority and suppression is the goal at a distance, to allow you to close and kill/dislodge the opponent. Find, fix, flank, finish as it were. That’s the narrative I’m going for. “Assault” or “close combat” represents closing the last 30 yards, throwing grenades, and flanking around cover.

    This also makes the game more interesting, as it requires maneuver rather than firing back and forth until one side is removed. It’s a tall order to get across the board to take the defended objective. Lots of decisions to made in order to best achieve it.

    Richmond, VA. Let's play!

    Avatar photoPhil Dutré

    the dynamics of infantry close assault are very different to those of the firefight and might be better modelled by a different mechanic.

    It depends on the scale of the game, of course, but I think people should think more about why you want a seperate melee and firing phase. It’s one of those things in wargaming that aren’t questioned enough 😉

    Avatar photoJohn D Salt

    I think people should think more about why you want a seperate melee and firing phase. It’s one of those things in wargaming that aren’t questioned enough 😉

    I would deprecate the word “melee” as anachronistic for the 20th century, but close quarter battle, the final assault, or whatever you want to call it is clearly a different thing from potting at each other from a distance. Anyone who doubts the continued importance of shock action I would recommend to read Dave Rowland’s “Stress of Battle” and Paddy Griffiths’ “Forward into Battle” to see if they change their minds. Whether this belongs in a separate phase in the turn sequence is I think a separate question, and I should have thought the modern fashion would have been for activations to be interleaved within a turn, whether for fire, movement or close assault.

    All the best,


    Avatar photoRetroboom

    Yep, again, I’ve never been in battle before (I don’t envy anyone who has) but for my intent with this game, incentivizing the final charge to push the enemy off off their ground (and preparing the variables to best be able to accomplish that) is a big part of the story the game tells.

    The suggested change to the rules, though, would make it less of a different phase and resolve more similar to the normal shooting action, mechanically.

    Richmond, VA. Let's play!

    Avatar photoPhil Dutré

    Just to avoid any confusion: I am certainly not claiming close assault or firing from a distance are tactically the same sort of operations. I know a little bit too much about military tactics to put forward that sort of statement 😉

    However, I do think that it is not always necessary to model them using different mechanics on the tabletop. As Martin has pointed out, you could use the same procedure, but with other modifiers for close range, as some rulesets do.

    The difference in *wargaming* mechanics between firing and close combat is something that I think originated in the classic turn structure. When it’s my turn, I fire, and I can kill your figure, and you can’t do anything in return. But when we do close combat, both our figures are fighting, and I can kill you, but you can also kill me (or only one gets killed). Thus, a different mechanic is needed. This is very much present in early wargaming rules, and has not changed much since the days of Featherstone and Grant. But it is only a consequence of thinking about firing and close combat in terms of the turn structure. If you use a turn structure in which firing is resolved simultaneously (as an example, other examples are possible as well), do you still need different procedures for close combat and firing?

Viewing 14 posts - 1 through 14 (of 14 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.