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    Avatar photoJohn D Salt

    I have recently been given to think furiously about suppression.

    By “suppression”, I mean the way bullets or fragments passing near a soldier cause him “to take or refrain from some action” (Phil Barker’s wording), typically by refraining from moving or firing, hitting the deck and taking cover.

    There are various other terms for the effect, including “pinning” and “neutralisation”.

    Whatever you call it, it seems to me absolutely necessary to show the effect in any set of WW2 wargames rules that are to show how fire and movement works.

    All the wargames rules I have seen to date show suppression in one of two ways — either as a weapons effect, or as a target response. The “weapons effect” approach gives suppression as the result of an attack, as seen in the WRG 1950-2000 rules. The “target response” approach no longer seems to be in favour, but is typified by the reaction tests popular in rules dating from the 1970s, as for example the WRG’s Infantry Action 1925-1975 rules.

    It seems to me that, despite the popularity of the “weapons effect” approach and the unfashionability of reaction tests, the “target response” approach better reflects the fact that suppression is a psychological effect.

    Recently, the idea occurred to me that one might manage a “target response” approach without the fuss and dice-rolling of reaction tests, and presenting the players with a bunch of  gambles to make which I think might be fun. Assuming alternating bounds (though I imagine a simultaneous version could also work), a player would declare fire attacks in his turn by appying fire to nominated targets, and place markers of some kind (poker chips, or counters with little tracer markings on them) on the table next to them. The player being fired at would resolve the effects of the fire in his turn, with the following wrinkle: he could voluntarily reduce the risk to them (in the case of frontal bullet fire against troops in cover, typically to zero) by choosing voluntarily to become suppressed.  Once suppressed, however, it would require a bit of effort to get them unsuppressed (expenditure of PIPs, passing a morale check, something like that).

    So, my questions are, before I try to design a game using this mechanism,

    1. Is there anything obviously wrong with it?

    2. Are there any games or rules that already use a similar mechanism, and does it work well?

    All the best,


    Avatar photoMike

    Have you tried FUBAR?


    Avatar photoJohn D Salt

    Have you tried FUBAR?

    Yes, if you mean the beer — lots of nice bitter hops, which I like. Well done the Tiny Rebel Brewery.

    The rules, no. How does suppression work in them?

    All th ebest,


    Avatar photoMike

    You can avoid hits (failed saves) by taking suppression markers.

    Each suppression marker reduces your chance to activate.

    The more experienced the unit, the more suppression they can take.

    The rules are free:


    Avatar photodeephorse

    So if you can avoid casualties by voluntarily becoming suppressed then the reverse must also apply.  You can avoid being suppressed by taking casualties.  But should that decision be available to the player?  What role is the player taking in the battle?  If that of a section/platoon commander then possibly yes.  But if you are a battalion or higher commander how do you get your entire command to be willing to die for the objective?

    I can see how this option might be available to fanatical/indoctrinated troops (Japanese/some SS etc.), or maybe highly motivated troops (Paras/Commandos etc.), but surely not every troop type in WWII, which would be the effect of such a mechanism, no?

    Play is what makes life bearable - Michael Rosen

    Avatar photoAnon User

    Having seen the effects of suppressing fire first hand I can’t imagine any voluntary response to it other than by the desperate or suicidal. On the other hand, fire intended to suppress might be less than effective, I saw someone empty their magazine into the wrong side of a house in Nepal, the soldiers in the street on the other side didn’t even flinch. I think the onus is on the firer to put down an effective field of fire rather than on the defender to overcome their natural response.

    Avatar photoJohn D Salt

    Deephorese wrote:

    So if you can avoid casualties by voluntarily becoming suppressed then the reverse must also apply. You can avoid being suppressed by taking casualties. But should that decision be available to the player? What role is the player taking in the battle? If that of a section/platoon commander then possibly yes. But if you are a battalion or higher commander how do you get your entire command to be willing to die for the objective?

    I’m thinking of this mechanism in terms of a game with single-soldier elements, and no more than a platton under a player’s command (because I have always wanted a game that feels a bit like doing section and platoon attacks on TA weekends, ‘cos they were fun).

    How do you get your entire command to be willing to die for the objective? By brilliant leadership, of course. In minor infantry tactics, I see this mainly as shouting “Follow me!”, so I don’t think a player should be entitled to have men conduct any higher-risk activity than a leader figure does. Leader figures should be fairly scarce, their loss should inflict a substantial blow to morale, and one of them should represent the player himself.

    Now that I’ve downloaded FUBAR and taken a gander at it — thanks for the suggestion, Mike — it’s an interesting mechanism, and not too far away from what I was thinking of, except that I would have players take the decision to suppress or take the risk *before* rolling the dice. I would want there to be the tension of the gamble, rather than a more-or-less cold-blooded decision to sacrifice Pte Sniffkins because we really need to get this oil-drum across this river (or whatever the vital military task is).

    One of the things FUBAR seems to show which I think is correct is that it is green troops who are harder to suppress than veterans (something I have seen in few other rules other than Jim Wallman’s “Stonk!”). This is quite a well-attested historical observation. I wish I could recall where I read an account of Italian infantry — not normally placed in the highest troop quality bracket in anyone’s rules — continuing to advance in the attack with great swathes being cut through their ranks by defensive fire.

    Another aspect I like about making suppression dependent on a player decision is that it means that the probability of suppression is not a simple function of fire density, for reasons of player psychology.  Light harrassing fire might require a choice between cracking on and accepting a small risk of casualty, or, with suppression, none at all. The ability to certainly avoid anything nasty happening would, I think, be very tempting. On the other hand, if the fire was so intense that the choice was between a very high risk and a still-high one, it might seem a better deal to resignedly accept the (proportionately only slightly greater) risk in order to be able to do at least something before your inevitable demise. Here I am thinking particularly of ambush drills, when the immediate action on being ambushed is to attack immediately into the ambush, in the hope of getting some of them before they get all of you (or at least it was for some of time I was playing soldiers — anti-ambush drills seemed to be one of those things strongly subject to fashion, which changed every few years).

    All the best,


    Avatar photodeephorse

    If you are playing at the platoon level then I can see that inspirational leadership would have a role to play.  But inspirational leaders are few and far between.  Most are average/competent, and how well will the game go for you if you don’t have an inspirational leader in charge of your platoon?  I’m not sure that I would want to play a game that reminded me of my time in the T.A.!  For a NATO Committed Infantry Battalion we did precious few section/platoon attacks, and consequently were pretty rubbish at them.  We dug trenches and fired off a lot of ammunition on ranges, but I guess that that was a more accurate representation of what we might have been doing if push had come to shove.  For a short time anyway…….  But it was great fun!

    Play is what makes life bearable - Michael Rosen

    Avatar photoquidveritas

    The WWII Project uses both …. I think.

    A unit can voluntarily go to ground after movement.

    A unit can be “hit” and either automatically go to ground or go to ground if it passes a discipline check (bad things happen if you fail that check).

    If a unit that has gone to ground has a leader or hero attached, it can get right back up and keep moving at its next opportunity.  Otherwise it must pass a discipline check before it will rise from the ground and do “whatever”.





    Avatar photoSparker

    Hi John,

    I would also look at the BattleGroup Kursk, Overlord, etc series of rules. In my opinion they model pinning very well. In particular going for area direct fire as a deliberate option can usually only result in pinning the target, but is very easily administered, no observation required and so on. Only if a ‘1D6’ is thrown on the target’s cover save is a single casualty caused. The gamble however comes in the end phase of the active player’s move – he has to decide if and how many pinned units to attempt to unpin…For every D6 number of units (sections/squad/AFV) he unpins, he has to draw a chit which has a random number that reduces his overall Battle Group Rating. Once down to zero – game over!

    It works well in my view, and tends to reduce direct small arms fire to very close range attacks around assaults, most infantry fire in BG games is now dedicated to ‘brassing up’ a suspect enemy position to achieve suppression, entirely authentically I think.

    'Blessed are the peacekeepers, for they shall need to be well 'ard'
    Matthew 5:9

    Avatar photoYukon5G

    Depending on the level of the game, the effects of suppression can be abstracted into the general degradation of unit effectiveness. In most games, when we kill a unit/stand/figure, are we really killing it or just making it combat ineffective? Arguably, suppression is just  a temporary (hopefully, depending on your outlook) manifestation of this.


    I would argue that suppression is best handled as an effect of the weapon system in concert with the morale/training/leadership of the target unit/stand/figure. I would say that “trading” casualties for suppression is best handled as an intersection of mission motivation as expressed in Stargrunt II and morale/training/leadership. Also, it should be tested for rather than a conscious decision of the player. But then, I like friction in games.

    Sink meh!

    Avatar photodeephorse

    Can I make a request that posters be careful about referencing other rulesets, such as “I think suppression should be modelled as per the ‘Teddybear’s Picnic III’ rules”.  Some of us will never have heard of these rules, let alone have read or possess a copy.  As such we will have no idea what you are talking about, which doesn’t help the discussion.  Better I think to describe the mechanism if at all possible.  Thank you.

    Play is what makes life bearable - Michael Rosen

    Avatar photoYukon5G

    Can I make a request that posters be careful about referencing other rulesets, such as “I think suppression should be modelled as per the ‘Teddybear’s Picnic III’ rules”. Some of us will never have heard of these rules, let alone have read or possess a copy. As such we will have no idea what you are talking about, which doesn’t help the discussion. Better I think to describe the mechanism if at all possible. Thank you.

    Fair enough. Stargrunt II can be found here:


    The mechanism I discuss basically allows for modifications to various morale rolls based on the “mission motivation” the force has at the beginning of the game. SGII has a somewhat more intricate morale, training  and leadership interface than most games, so it’s worth a look just for that purpose.

    The other alternative of course is to write in a specific scenario rule for what you’re trying to achieve. Then playtest, playtest, playtest.

    Sink meh!

    Avatar photoIvan Sorensen

    Suppression is one of those things that has as many answers as there are games 🙂

    Some games have it as part of the dice results (Stargrunt), some build it into the activation mechanic (A freebie set called Slammer did this), some have it as a side effect of combat (Necromunda), some have it happen automatically (my own FAD rules)

    The idea of “self-suppression” like in FUBAR and Forge of War (I think it was called) is a neat twist too. For my FiveCore game, it’s a separate die rolled. (You roll Kill and Shock dice when you shoot).

    Avatar photoquidveritas


    Men would often rush forward and go to ground– relying on the men or MG behind them to provide cover fire.

    Prominent examples are D-day, the US Marines in the pacific Island hopping battles, and many examples by trained Germans (that was the doctrine).

    Men that go to ground do not return fire they keep moving to the next cover.  If done well, you present a target that is hard to hit and you can close to the enemy unit.

    Of course it all depends on the nature of the game.

    If going to ground is going to cost you 10 minutes of firing this may not work for you.  If it costs you 2 minutes of firing — that is another matter.



    Avatar photoAllen Curtis

    *Effective* suppression ought to rely on the skill of the shooters, I think.  The response to fire would indeed depend on the psychological factors of the target, including leadership, experience, et al.

    Without going all Marshall on the subject, I would think you have to accommodate a range of responses: from those especially motivated who keep on going; to the green troops who dive for cover and take no action in return; to the veterans who select their cover to be able to return fire, to the war-weary who say “‘sod this”, get their heads down, and wait for the artillery.

    Infantry combat was almost an ancillary part of training at the NTC (in the old days).  But you still saw all kinds of responses (including total paralysis of a unit) even when the worst that could happen was that your MILES sensor would go off and you could have a sit-down.


    Avatar photoBandit

    I’ve always thought that suppression / pinning was an involuntary reaction of a target. The firing unit may intend to suppress the target but does not generally have the ability to accomplish by choice.

    The idea of a target choosing to become suppressed over potentially taking losses seems a bit odd to me simply because of the involuntary nature of suppression that I presume.

    Avatar photoquidveritas

    I think Allen nailed it.  If a target unit waited until it was hit by fire before deciding it was going to ground, those men would be casualties!

    Whether a unit chooses to stay “suppressed” or do something else has little to do with the shooter and everything to do with the training leadership and motivation of the suppressed unit.

    BTW, Allen’s example of paralysys to fire from MILES equipped weapons is too much, LOL.  My guys used to position a group of 3 or 4 guys around an M-60 (usually an ambush situation).  The report from the M-60 was often enough to auto fire the M-16 — thus allowing the firepower of the M-60 to increase x4 without using any of the ammo issued to the M-16 😉



    Avatar photoFlavius Belisarius

    Suppression is mainly a “product” of doctrine and training.

    Think about formation warfare (Napoleonics etc.) with musket fire at short distance (100-200 paces):

    Only the killed or wounded soldiers went to ground – nobody was suppressed! Fear was great among the men but group pressure and training worked against it.

    If a unit got to much (of losses or shocks) it run away, some surrendered or simply the whole formation desintegrated. Control was lost and the unit ceased to exist (for the rest of the battle) as a functional fighting power.

    The natural reactions to a personal thread are “freaze” or “run away” – not go to ground. This is in my opinion largely a developement of the 19th century with its growing fire power from (then) rifles and later from the artillery.  Now it was necessary to disperse the large formations and later to train the soldiers to go to ground. But if this was the case the officers feared that they lost momentum and control. They thought it was nearly impossible to regain the initiative and to rally all these dispersed soldiers lying in cover. That was probably true with the contempory types of control.  Only the encouragement of initiative in lower ranks and the developement of squad tactics could overcome this costly stalement in tactics. During the war of 1870/71 the Prussians were able to overcome the greater firepower of the Chasepot rifle with the initiative of the enlisted men and NCOs – many officers were killed before. This developement culminated in the First World War. There the tremendous losses were largely caused by the tactics of the time – the men were trained to leave the trenches and run forward in long lines. But there was some learning about suppression, from experience, not from the book. The soldiers learned that it was dangerous to expose themselves when they heard the bullets pass nearby.

    Later this was transformed in new tactics with short leaps forward – their duration shorter then the possible reaction time of the enemy. And taking cover as a reaction to enemy fire was incorporated in the basic training of each soldier. So it became a question of training and doctrine.

    Experience remains a factor. There was the example of the green troops – there have no experience of being shot at – they do not know how it sounds when a bullet comes too close! The survivors of the first encounter know better.

    And sound is very important – you don’t see the bullets – only hear them (according to a veteran). So the experience of real battle situations come in. And experienced troops knew that sometimes it is less dangerous to pass a beaten zone (e.g.of mortars) as quickly as possible as to go to ground there. A veteran of the east front told me that he was severely wounded in the legs by a mortar bomb, because he was standing. His comrad was killed because he was lying.

    Conclusio: Different reactions to the same volume of fire. Different doctrine, training and experience. And in all cases also different perception of the same sound from different persons. So it is (in part) the choice of the target and with its conscious reaction it is able to mitigate or increase the consequences of enemy fire.

    And there are differences between flat firing weapons (go to ground is good) and shrapnells from overhead (go to ground is perhaps bad).

    Avatar photoquidveritas

    Going to Ground is a “product” of doctrine and training.  I have personally eaten my fair share of dirt.  Volume of fire has nothing to do with it.  A single sniper shot will do just fine most of the time.  Just not healthy to stand up and look around to see where that shot came from.

    Suppression is something else again.  This, IMO, is a volume of fire at a particular point which either keeps the target from returning fire, forces the target to move to another location (which experienced or well trained troops will be doing anyway — fire and displace – I think they did that in WWII didn’t they?), or if the target does return fire, that fire is hurried and hopefully less accurate.

    They can be similar in some respects but are not identical.



    Avatar photoFlavius Belisarius

    Officers were trained to show no fear in front of their men. And so many of them were killed standing upright when all other were lying.
    But with the growing volume of fire this is to dangerous now. So I think this example in its pure form is no longer advisable (and not trained).
    But leaders could mitigate suppression effects by their example.

    Learning: You know incoming fire is dangerous – you learn the sound of it – you have fear – you go to ground (more experience -> faster reaction = more training); Sometimes also a rational decision or a mixture with fear; with time a automatic reaction

    So training (or learning) to go to ground (= suppression); but also to train/learn some actions to mitigate these effects

    Avatar photoLardy Rich

    Personally I think that the effects of suppression should be randomised to a degree.  As a player we should never be able to know precisely how our troops will react.  In our games we use the system of Shock to reflect this issue, and indeed unit morale generally.  There can be times when units will take no casualties but be significantly suppressed, whereas at other time they can die to a man while still fighting effectively.  These are, however, extreme results on the bell curve; the majority of the time you’ll see a general attrition in terms of both numbers and how suppressed the unit is.


    Playing the period, not the rules, since 2002


    Suppression of infantry must be a key element in rules for me. I play Western Desert games centred on the relief of Tobruk 1941. In the Western Desert infantry attacks without tank support or massed artillery tended to get bogged down pretty quickly (due to the generally coverless, flat nature of the terrain). Infantry, in battalion strength (not isolated bits of a battalion), could quite often remain pinned down in no man’s land for hours – sometimes they would lay out in the desert all day, casualties slowly mounting, until it got dark enough to cover their retreat.

    In my house rules, based on Piquet mechanisms, following effective (casualty causing) fire the target can be morale challenged (it costs a point of your army’s morale count to do this, so you don’t do it willy nilly – Piquet is a game of choices). If it fails it goes to ground, it can’t move and shoots at very reduced effect until it passes a morale check (costing a point of army morale), if contacted whilst suppressed it surrenders. If it fails a further morale challenge whilst suppressed it ‘hunkers down’ and can’t rally until the enemy are unable to lay down small arms (inc. mortars) fire upon it – this is a change from standard Piquet mechs in that a second ‘disorder’ would normally cause a rout; troops in no man’s land hunker in the desert because there is little in the way of better cover to run / dash to (nowhere to run); this is why so many prisoners were taken in the desert, they hunkered down until mopped up (see 5th SA Brigade, etc.).

    The nature of my games means that they are usually armour oriented but, infantry play a large part in my battles. Infantry, though secondary, are essential and must be modelled accurately. BTW, this is one of the reasons I can’t understand the rush for ‘small unit’ 28mm Desert stuff. Look how flat and empty most (not all) of it is – not terrain to be skirmishy and sneaky in! – and very few ‘limited objectives (like a village)’ to march on or take.


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    Avatar photoAngel Barracks

    I want to start by saying I have zero combat experience (thankfully) and that I have only played a handful of rules so my experience of suppression and what it means is based upon very limited exposure from various sources.

    In my rules, suppression acts to make infantry less likely to do what you want them to.
    So for example a squad of infantry that wants to ‘advance’ would normally need a 3+, to ‘take cover’ they would need a 1+, to attach bayonets and ‘assault’ the enemy, a 4+.
    However if ‘shaken’ these numbers are modified, so that advance becomes 4+, take cover 2+ and assault 5+.
    Being shaken makes things harder.

    Units become shaken if they take fire but pass their saves.
    It is figured that the fire either panics them, causes them to be hesitant, etc., hence the negative modifiers to their command rolls.
    It can also be assumed if you wish, that infantry are hit but not killed, so shaken could mean that Steve was hit and the squad gets a shaken  token and the associated -1, as they are busy kneeling on Steve to stop him bleeding out.

    Once a shaken squad loses a man, they also lose the shaken token.
    Maybe Steve is now dead and not tying them up and they are free to act again?
    Maybe they took cover and patched Steve up and are ok to go?

    To lose the shaken marker they either have to lose a man or pass a command roll.
    Passing command rolls depends on what order you give them.
    Giving shaken troops the advance order would be 4+, giving them assault would be 5+, giving them take cover would be 2+.
    So you can see that troops under fire are encouraged to be commanded in a way that would likely keep them safe.

    The rules are very light and very abstract.
    They are trying to balance what could happen, with what players want to happen, with a simple quick mechanic with quick play.
    For me, this works…

    Avatar photoJurgen Leistner

    Suppression is a reaction to firepower where the people who believe that they are on the receiving end of the firepower become unable to move or react in a useful manner; it is not the same as “going to ground”, which is a tactic.

    As to trading off hits for suppression in a wargame, I can see the logic behind this; given that our little metal or plastic men do not have fears and views and we cannot know what they are feeling, it can represent a target unit hiding as still as possible behind cover rather than engaging in combat, which carries an apparently greater risk of being shot.

    In our rules, figures test for suppression if they just survive being shot at or or blown up; the test is based on their “<span class=”gt-card-ttl-txt” style=”direction: ltr;”>Tapferkeit</span>” rating.  We are going to explore the “trading off” idea.



    True, it’s not the same as going to ground to seek cover. In the combat area, with lead flying about, most troops will seek cover, or go prone if there is none and, in the latter case, only stand to move quickly. That war game figures are generally sculpted upright gives a false impression of them in actual combat. Suppression is a morale effect, an unwanted response to circumstances – it forces troops, due to the fear of imminent death, to seek cover / go prone and not show themselves to engage in combat for fear of being killed.

    When dealing with 1:1 skirmishes this is easy – a suppressed individual cowers and partakes in no effective aggressive action (he might shoot blindly) until he recovers his composure and will to fight.

    When dealing with units it is a little harder to model. The reaction of some in the unit will force a similar response on the rest – most stop, all stop – but some might be braver than the others and be able to return fire from the prone position forced on them by the more reluctant members of their unit; they will, however, be less likely to ‘press on alone’ like Audie Murphy. So I think a suppressed unit’s movement should be wholly restricted, whilst its combat, especially shooting, should only be heavily penalised. The thing about units reacting badly or well as a single entity has something to do with the psychology of small unit cohesion, I think I read about that in one of Keegan’s books (Face of Battle?).

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    Avatar photoJurgen Leistner

    Suppression is indeed very difficult to model for units as not all members or parts of that unit will react to the perception of being on the wrong end of firepower in the same way.  One possibility might be to allow a certain percentage of the unit’s firepower to be used effectively based on a die roll against the Tapferkeit (or similar) rating, with modifiers based on the unit’s situation (what sort of fire are they under, what sort of cover are they in).

    As an example,

    A unit has a Tapferkeit rating 0f 5, so perhaps has the following chances on a D10:

    1-5 no firing

    6-7: 20% effectiveness

    8-9: 30% effectiveness

    10+: 40% effectiveness

    Modifiers to the dice role could be:

    In hard cover: +1

    In the open: -2

    Under sustained MG fire: -2




    I like to keep my gaming mechs quite simple where I can. Because units are suppressed as an adverse result to a morale challenge (where training level and elan is accounted for)  following effective fire, better units have less chance of being suppressed – they just take the casualties and keep going. They are also more easily rallied during the command phase.

    Most of the troops I deal with (Western Desert Nov – Dec 1941) are all quite well motivated. Even the Italians are better than most would give them credit for; they didn’t immediately suffer sun burnt armpits in the face the enemy; their mechanised formations, amongst others, were on a par (though not in tank design) to Commonwealth formations; so many surrendered early on because they had no trucks in which to retreat and most surrendered later on because the Germans stole their trucks.

    So, given these two things, it’s quite easy for me to give a simple ruling for all suppressed troops. They can’t move, forwards or back, and they get a hefty shooting penalty.

    BTW. Suppressed armour only receives a can’t move forwards penalty and a marginal shooting penalty for being a bit panicky. Trucks are forced to disgorge any living cargo suppressed and must retreat at full speed until out of effective fire range. Officers are never suppressed – they are bally heroes to a man!

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    Avatar photoIvan Sorensen

    There’s two things at play here really:

    On one hand, there’s the fact that any unit taking fire, no matter how well trained, will operate somewhat less effective. In FAD, I did this by marking all units that are shot at “Under Fire”. This limits movement in the open and penalizes shooting.

    The effect is automatic and cannot be avoided. Any unit taking shots will be degraded to some extent but it doesn’t prevent them from taking any actions.


    Particularly heavy fire or artillery can cause a unit to get pinned down, preventing them from acting. This requires a weight of fire depending on their training levels.
    Training will influence whether a unit “loses it” and becomes ineffective temporarily.


    The thing about an artillery bombardment is that it is generally of brief duration after which the infantry generally know they are safe to proceed until the next ranging shot comes in. Generally, artillery does not have the ammunition reserves to maintain a fire.

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    Avatar photoJurgen Leistner


    Troops might be able to get up and move off after an artillery bombardment but they also might not;  being under artillery fire is very stressful, especially if it is sustained for any length of time and those subjected to it can be shattered by the experience.  To argue that artillery do not have the ammunition reserves to maintain fire is often not accurate.


    Units using cover and behaving tactically because they are being shot at is not the same as units being supressed.  The former is a tactical situation, while the latter is a forced situation and can severely limit what the unit can do, to the extent of making it inoperative.


    Avatar photoIvan Sorensen

    Ivan, Units using cover and behaving tactically because they are being shot at is not the same as units being supressed. The former is a tactical situation, while the latter is a forced situation and can severely limit what the unit can do, to the extent of making it inoperative. Jurgen


    Exactly. That’s why it should be handled in two different manners 🙂


    As I’ve said, I only war game the Western Desert November to December 1941 (Operation Crusader).  I don’t know enough, or wish to pass comment about other theatres and periods.

    In the desert a typical British shoot at non fixed positions was five rounds from each gun in quick succession. During operation Crusader 25pdrs (the mainstay) had front line ammunition of 112 rounds per gun, about a sixth of which was AP. Rapid fire was 4-5 rounds a minute, normal was 3. Although barrages could be hours long this rarely happened except at the start of an offensive against known fixed positions. Once the guns started to move, and they frequently had to in the fluid battles of Operation Crusader, where the ‘front’ frequently moved 30 miles a day, ammunition was always a limiting factor. Front line artillery rarely had its full ammunition quota at the start of any given day.

    When firing long barrages rates of fire were drastically reduced to reduce over heating and to conserve ammunition – one or two rounds a minute from a 25pdr battery could be maintained for several hours. Medium artillery (6″ how) usually fired a round every two or three minutes in such barrages, heavy one every four to eight minutes. However, I’m not sure that this is the kind of barrage we are talking about. They tended to be coming to an end as attacks went in and were very rarely, if ever, used to stop one once it had started.

    In a  battle situation [war game] I think we are talking about the short sharp targeted types of fire missions rather than sustained preliminary bombardments that were designed to sap the will of the defender and denude his defences over a period of time.

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    Avatar photoYukon5G

    Interesting that you mention “The Face of Battle,” James. I was just thinking about how I hadn’t read it in a while and wondering if its in audiobook form. EDIT: It is!

    Suppression effects from artillery are tricky as there are number of mission types to contend with. Within the scope of a skirmish game, however, I think the Lardies are on to something with “Chain of Command” and limiting indirect fire in the game to off-board 80 mm mortars or similar.


    Suppression from small arms direct fire is another animal and should be looked at differently, as mentioned above.

    As for “limited effective fire” while suppressed/pinned/etc, I believe SLA Marshall reported something on the order of 10% of infantry troops actually fired their weapons in an aimed, effective manner during WWII. Dave Grossman discusses this in “On Killing.” He goes on to explain how modern training techniques have upped that percentage to the point that it’s closer to 100%.  But that might be a different discussion.

    Sink meh!


    Hi Yukon,

    Yes, I’ve read about that too. I’ve also read that most of the killing was done by just 4% [?] of the combatants, which isn’t that surprising as a similar percentage of the human population have psychopathic tendencies! I also saw a documentary, years ago, that said, in terms of explosive power, each casualty [fatality?] took the equivalent of 5 million bullets to achieve.

    I’m afraid I’ve landed myself with the full measure of artillery mission possibilities as I game one unit is a company, the lowest command piece is battalion, and there are normally two levels of command featured above that – namely, brigade (regt. for German) and brigade group / battle group /  Division. I’m normally gaming with a lot of guns per side. My 2nd day at Sidi Rezegh re-fight featured five full batteries of 25pdrs for the British; 3 batteries of 10.5cm, 1 battery of 15cm SP infantry guns and three batteries of 21cm batteries for the Germans.

    Here are the OOBs for that engagement:

    British OOB. Sidi Rezegh. 22:11:41

    German OOB. Sidi Rezegh. 22:11:41

    Link (for those interested) to the other scenario notes here:


    I’ve simplified my artillery to three types, in game terms, and to avoid confusion I’ve tried to call them by ‘game’ names. They are definitely a bit gamy, but they have something of the right flavour (I think).

    1. Strike. Short and intense fire. Direct or indirect. Actually lasts only a small part of a 30 minute turn. Fired at specific targets, most usually a single unit. May be called as opportunity fire in the oppositions turn. Indirect missions need to be called each time requested.

    2. Barrage. Indefinate fire at moderate intensity. Direct or indirect. Uses an area template centred on a specific stationary target; troops moving through  count as shot at as soon as they enter – they take fire from the previous barrage card.  Has better effect vs troops dug in and so forth than Strike. Cannot be fired as indirect opportunity fire in the oppositions ‘turn’. Missions may be automatically cancelled following resolution on a barrage card.

    3. Harassing barrage. Indefinate fire at low intensity. Indirect. Similar to barrage but using a much bigger zone with less effect. Harassing fire does not end automatically; fire must be cancelled immediately a barrage card is played (before resolution) before the guns can be trained on a new target. Cannot be used as opportunity fire. Usually the realm of medium and heavy off board artillery.

    Something that is a bit of a bugbear about artillery fire for me, is the war gamer’s seeming obsession with ‘artillery drift’ (not landing on target). Most WW2 war game rules I’ve read have hit and drift mechanisms, why? From everything I’ve read this is a load of rubbish. Artillery strikes are not just fired ‘ shoot and hope’. A ranging shot is fired, it is corrected, all the guns in the battery calibrate to the ranging gun and shoot together for effect. Low and behold, almost the whole lot lands on the target area. That troops suffered friendly artillery fire in WW2 is not in doubt, but this was almost always a case, like friendly fire today, of fire that was misdirected; the guns hit (within the bounds of expectation) what they were aiming at, what they were aiming at was the wrong target. What’s more, significant friendly fire incidents were, like nowadays, actually quite rare. My artillery always lands on target, it might not do any damage, but it arrives where it is aimed.  Aircraft are another story.

    Oh, have you seen this idea for off table artillery markers – saves any paperwork and they are cheap as chips.</p>

    Off table artillery markers (Heroics and Ros) next to on table artillery (Battlefront FoW)


    My whoring and daubing:

    Avatar photoYukon5G

    I like those markers, James. I can think of a few ways to use those as more than just “off board” markers.

    Sink meh!

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