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

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  • #146178
    Stephen Madjanovich
    Participant

    So we have kicked this can of determining a set of WWII rules we can live with a few times now but some of us are still, either on the fence or not accepting the compromises others will live with. I am in mostly the latter category. Some of this discussion is coming about as a result of reading tactical painter’s musings on his blog about why ASL doesn’t do it for him anymore. For those reading this on various sites or in emails his blog post is here;

    https://thetacticalpainter.blogspot.com/2020/07/farewell-advanced-squad-leader.html

    Myself, despite buying much of ASL until I got out of gaming in the early ’90s and all of Squad Leader, I only played a game or two of SL and none of ASL. Since getting back into gaming a few years back I have played ASL once and SL a couple times. As a regular game for WWII I am taking a pass. As a once every couple years to relive my youth I may play SL at that rate but as ASL requires a drastically more involved immersion, well that ain’t gonna happen.

    In a Coles notes version of what tactical painter said basically SL/ASL lacks:

    1. Command and control which requires the player to deal with an inability to do everything with perfect knowledge of the situation and your own sides performance and the enemy’s disposition and to a lesser degree their capabilities.
    2. Real world unit organizations and command structure.
    3. An easy to deal with sequence of play. (my words based on his points)

    When he approached ASL players with ideas on how to add these elements into games he was met with a resounding “that will unbalance the scenarios”. As if that was the only aspect that mattered.

    So my intent here is to first see if there is a game or game system out there which satisfies, or nearly so, incorporating the above concepts into a game system with a game scale similar to SL/ASL. Then if there is nothing acceptable as is either start with an existing system and attempt to incorporate these aspects or design a new game. I would rather find or slightly modify en existing game but like many of you I am sure I have very specific aspects I am willing to compromise on and ones I want. So here goes..

    First a couple ground rules. Something like 95%+ of all combat was between infantry with small arms and at most platoon level support, possibly company support elements. Artillery, armour and air power were at best very rare supplements to any actions and usually totally absent. Second the game scale used in Squad Leader and ASL (and some others) including hex based game boards is to be maintained in approximation. Basically each hex is 40 yards to 50 meters across, units are squad, part squad, fire or weapons team and occasionally individuals. In my case even leaders will be composed of a leader and his assistant (radio operator, runner, etc.). Weapons teams will be composed of the weapon’s operator and other troopers who either feed ammunition, carry part of the “heavy” weapon, are considered part of a gun crew, etc.. Even snipers will be represented by the sniper and their spotter or a second sniper acting as a spotter. Since I have other applications in mind I may also increase a unit’s size up to a platoon but that platoon may be composed of individuals armed with bolt action rifles with no support weapons such as units of irregulars operating in civil wars either earlier in the 20th century or as poorly trained and equipped forces encountered in other civil disturbances later in the century and into the present one. Time is rather nebulous so some variation can be allowed here.

    One other thing. I have read dozens of rules and played a few game systems over the past few years so if I have made a mistake and either gotten details mixed up or incorrect please just bear with me. Correct me but please don’t ridicule. As I said I have not found a game with enough aspects right for me.

    So the basic SL/ASL has none of the above. I am VERY put off by the interminable turn sequence and the Igo Ugo game mechanics. Having to know endless pages of rules is a massive drawback too although the learn a few rules and play them teaching method of the original game was sheer genius. Based on TP’s post ASL’s intent to cover as many aspects as possible has caused so many ways to “play” the rules beyond what was originally intended so many are now seen as ways to gain unfair advantages as opposed to being all encompassing. Another side effect is that in order for some aspect to have an effect many of these effects can be played together to create unfair or unrealistic game results.

    I really liked Conflict of Heroes as an alternative to ASL the first dozen or so times I played it. It lacks command but makes up for it partially by it’s use of command action points which allow for the effects of leaders in game terms. Very abstracted but functional. I also really like the I use one action point then you do as a way to dispose of the insane sequence of play in SL/ASL. I really like the combat system, roll 2D6 and add your attack factor. Compare that to the target’s defense factor as modified by terrain. Some mods for range and that is it. I have never played armour which uses the same mechanisms. I FEEL I like more detail but not having gamed it I can’t say for sure.

    Now the downside(s). The I do a little of one thing then you do and repeat can slow a game down. This is less noticed with slightly experienced players. I can see how over cautious or experienced players may unintentionally slow a game down when considering all potential outcomes. I am neither that good or experienced to have seen that but it is a possibility. There is almost no command and control effects and those that do exist are very abstract. Works in the game system but… There is no unit organizations or command structure. Frankly the game has been out for quite a while and the publisher has made almost no additional material. It takes from 5 to 10 years for each supplement and they keep going back and modifying the base game system as opposed to releasing more stuff. As said they keep modifying the game system. Major changes. Some I like but I would rather they get on with expanding the coverage of forces and theatres rather than coming up with a whole new system.

    TP mentions Chain of Command as his now “go to”system. I like it a lot as well, but. It is platoon level only. The mods they made to “expand it” only are designed to accommodate multiple players per side (2 mostly) each of whom controls only a platoon plus some support elements. Units are individuals and each gets one or more dice to roll so the buckets of dice syndrome comes out big time with these rules. Lots of areas covered and many periods and theatres. Lots of support. But I like to game as a squad or team and this is a game of individuals so accommodations have to be made for individual attacks, loses and their position on the game board. The roll to see who can function this turn is one of the best aspects. You see their command level but you can choose who those unit(s) or leaders are. Leaders can activate troops under their command (within limits) and you usually can only activate about half your force per turn. There is a chance your turn can keep going for a while so there is some ability to keep on with a push, especially as you know before a turn happens whether this applies. Overall a very nice, clean and elegant mechanic which is unfortunately only suitable for platoon level game and is not easily expanded upwards or down despite the seeming ability to do so. Also designed for miniatures and best played with 15mm to 28mm figures.

    I have played a game of the last hundred yards last year. It felt just like squad leader with some changes. Not enough to distinguish it from SL/ASL or CoH, just different. Perhaps I missed something but I do believe it handled unit organization. I do remember throughout the game many of us at the table (4) felt this or that rule applied to the situation at hand but realized we were thinking of a SL/ASL/CoH rule. Somewhat generic and very limited in scope at this time.

    I have played and enjoyed Hind & Seek a lot. A game about the Soviet Afghan war at the same unit scale as SL/ASL/CoH (I need some smaller acronym). I like a lot of the ways it handles the theatre and asymmetrical warfare and many of the game mechanics, but. Too many situational counters needed, Igo Ugo, no leaders or leadership and unit organizations, units get moraled to death but no mechanisms for reducing morale and having this damage does noting to your ability to fight.

    Bolt Action; A boring low brow version of CoC. Plays much like CoC but no leadership, perfect control and a BS point system for games which seem to revolve around making the scenarios big enough you can always have your SS panzer grenadiers battle american paratroops or soviet guards tankers. The guy I played it with said, when I asked him why not play CoC instead, “this way everybody gets a turn right away, no waiting”. I found World of Flames(?) the same but even less interesting. In fact it seems like all these games which rely primarily on points battles are all designed for bean counters. Boring.

    Force on Force is not bad and has a lot going for it, but again no command and control. It also is individual based but you work with fire teams or larger so kind of schizophrenic in my mind. It has potential but as for skirmish I have played better.

    I have played a few Nordic Weasel games (especially No End In Sight) and they try to address some aspects but between trying to use a single D6 for every action and the need for so much terrain to keep from being always killed it leaves a lot to be enjoyed. Plus skirmish based.

    Those are the ones I have played. I also have IABSM. The version I have uses cards dice and some other mechanism to determine activations. That turned me off on page 3. I have almost all games out there now but each has fallen short. Many are armour only, or infantry is so secondary as to be laughable. Personally I like a little more detail in my armour game as I feel even having one platoon’s worth in these scenarios may be the limit. TP’s comment in his blog is for games the scale of SL a typical tank is operating at point blank range while covering from one board edge to the other.

    So if you have a game to suggest please do so. But consider the above comments and give a realistic assessment as to whether the game you put forth handles these aspects. If you want to suggest changes to an existing game also please do so but consider if they can be implemented. I have looked at adding individual leaders into both CoH and H&S but it would take major changes to the game system to accommodate. If you are willing to provide those changes or input on how to incorporate them please let’s hear your $0.20.

    #146179
    Whirlwind
    Participant

    I also have IABSM. The version I have uses cards dice and some other mechanism to determine activations. That turned me off on page 3.

    Just to be clear, you don’t like IABSM because it uses card activation, so don’t suggest other games which use cards?

    https://hereticalgaming.blogspot.co.uk/

    #146183
    Phil Dutré
    Participant

    It sounds to me you know exactly what you want and don’t want in a game. The obvious next step is to write your own rules. I really do mean that. It allows you to emphasize those aspects you like, and not to put in any unnecessary bells and whistles that don’t work for you. After all, when you use a ruleset written by someone else, the unwanted bells and whistles will always be there.

    I have learned over the decades that different wargamers want different things. Some want a strong emphasis on hardware (weapons, vehicles, …). Some want to focus on command and control, movement and manoeuvre. Other want to stress army lists, point values and some form of competitive play. More others want historical plausibility, while still others want 100% historical realism (whatever that means).

    Then there’s the whole dimension of game mechanics. Some people dislike or hate cards. Others hate buckets of dice. Some – like myself – like to play around with all sorts of experimental mechanics. Etc. IMO, good games design revolves around the proper design of mechanics in order to give the player a strong role identification. Otoh, I don’t care about the relative firepower of weapon 1 vs weapon 2. YMMV.

    So, it really depends on what you want to get out of a game. The ultimate WW2 tactical game will never exist in the absolute sense, because games design changes over the years. A game such as SL/ASL shows its age. It’s 70s design that would never originate today. But it has a strong legacy and a cohort of afficionados, and that’s perfectly fine.

    Tiny Tin Men Blog: http://snv-ttm.blogspot.com/
    Wargaming Mechanics Blog: http://wargaming-mechanics.blogspot.com/

    #146184
    Phil Dutré
    Participant

    A good way to develop your own rules is to start from an absolute minimum framework, with some core concepts or mechanics that you deem immutable. Then play a few games and see what works and doesn’t work. Then add or remove things after each game. After several iterations, you start to converge to something you and your gaming group like.

    I have followed such an approach several times, and it allows you to come up with a ruleset where the emphasis is right where you want it to be.

     

    Tiny Tin Men Blog: http://snv-ttm.blogspot.com/
    Wargaming Mechanics Blog: http://wargaming-mechanics.blogspot.com/

    #146190
    Don Glewwe
    Participant

    “…write your own rules.”

    I agree, though beware: Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will.

    https://brawlfactory.net/

    #146191
    Usagitsuki
    Participant

    Assuming you’re not averse to card-based systems, you could have a look at Combat Patrol. It’s pretty easy to add modifications to get it to work how you want. There are extensive designer’s notes here:
    http://www.bucksurdu.com/combatpatrol/designers-notes/

     

    "Gareth Bale is running amok here, he's running an absolute mok." - John Hartson

    #146192
    Stephen Madjanovich
    Participant

    I also have IABSM. The version I have uses cards dice and some other mechanism to determine activations. That turned me off on page 3.

    Just to be clear, you don’t like IABSM because it uses card activation, so don’t suggest other games which use cards?

    I have no aversion to card systems. The version of IABSM used BOTH card and dice and I think something else. Too many methods.

    Frankly cards are similar to the method used by Bolt Action in the games I played in. In BA dice were drawn from a bag. The colour of the dice indicated which players’ unit was activated that phase. The player chose which of their not yet activated squads would then activate. After they placed the die beside that unit also displaying what action it took. I don’t remember why you did that except if the unit was placed on an overwatch action.

    To me the best use for cards is when playing solo. Then randomizing which unit activates helps with game play. In the case of MY units I would rather choose. Also the point is not all units can and will activate. All this does is activate everyone just in an uncoordinated way.

    #146193
    Stephen Madjanovich
    Participant

    I have an idea of the mechanisms I like but am also hoping to find something innovative.

    I agree buckets of dice are a turn off, and frankly the differences between bolt action rifles of different armies (for example) are too small to bother modeling.

    I want the effects of command and control in so much as units are subordinate to certain headquarters and either not all units are available every turn or if they are then they may be limited in how many actions they can perform. As an example of the latter CoH (in the 3rd edition and the solo expansion) has a chance after every action of causing the unit which activated to be exhausted and no longer perform that “turn”. Now you can use your leadership pool of activations to keep that unit activating but that is a limited number and will not or have less available for other units. Similarly CoC’s leaders only supply so many activations as well. So you can either activate a few units or allow one or two units to perform more or better.

    Many people play Flames of War and yet the entire game mechanics are all out of the ’70s if not earlier. There are so many “missed opportunities” to introduce newer mechanics, but that would alienate the players who can analyze and optimize their pre game purchase, resulting in (horror) randomness. ASL shows it’s age but I think SL & ASL’s mechanics are too structured to implement many friction based changes. Certainly the players are structured against it.

    #146194
    Stephen Madjanovich
    Participant

    Ugagitsuki

    Thank you for the suggestion. I will review it. Looking quickly it seems to be a skirmish level game though. I am trying for something larger but will review it. I am playing skirmish but less so for WWII, I prefer modern or imaginations for that scale.

    #146195
    Stephen Madjanovich
    Participant

    As stated in a couple other threads where I have gone off on a rant I have been suggested to write my own. Frankly I would rather find something close and just tweak it. I know it will never get done, mostly as I am a crow and too easily distracted by the next bright shiny object. I have also looked at so many rules they are running together in my mind (remember still only have the mental capacity of a crow!) and many are skirmish (individual figures which is very hard to keep compatible with 6mm) or larger in scale (one unit equals a platoon of something which never appealed to me, which is why the Panzer Leader series never clicked). Sigh. I hope we can keep going with this discussion and people don’t throw up their hands and say “this guy is an a–hole” and go away.

    #146196
    Stephen Madjanovich
    Participant

    Assuming you’re not averse to card-based systems, you could have a look at Combat Patrol. It’s pretty easy to add modifications to get it to work how you want. There are extensive designer’s notes here: http://www.bucksurdu.com/combatpatrol/designers-notes/

    So units activate randomly and all will activate fully in each turn. Which and when you have no control over. One of my bugs I like to decide which units activate and when but don’t mind not all being active (CoC) or not each can do a full activation (CoH). Reading the BGG write up the use of cards for combat results seems interesting, but changing from a common set of charts available to everyone to each player having specific ones, but smaller, just seems to move the inevitable charts from one form to another (with lots of “look my bright idea” added in). Sounds like it could work so I will look into these rules closer.

    A few months ago I saw an AAR of a WWII skirmish game which led to a blog. The scenario was early war Germans vs French with the Germans attempting to capture a farm held by the French. The French were dispersed between various buildings and the Germans chose a poor very direct attack down the centre road. I know this probably matches dozens of possible AARs but if I remember correctly it was a different set of rules. They had a lot of the flavour of CoC but weren’t. I am sure they were in 20 or 28 mm. If anyone has a link to potential games please post it. There was some interesting aspects, such as although individuals they operated as teams and squads and there was some unit based command requirements. i cannot find my saved link now and would like to revisit these rules. Thank you.

    #146206
    Norm S
    Participant

    It is a boardgame, but the Old School Tactical system by Flying Pig may interest you.

    #146208
    Stephen Madjanovich
    Participant

    SL/ASL and Conflict of Heroes are both hex and counter board games. In some ways I like the result playing on a fixed game board can decrease arguments over positioning. It is also why I like CoH’s approach where the entire hex is composed of the terrain while SL/ASL uses the image of the building itself to determine the line of sight. I have OST downloaded and will look it over.

    I kept thinking of rules I have, have played or have read and should I define the “issues” I see with each. It felt like I was being whiny and not really solving my problem just being negative for negative sake.

    #146209
    Stephen Madjanovich
    Participant

    It is a boardgame, but the Old School Tactical system by Flying Pig may interest you.

    I like the impulse idea. Looks well thought out or well play tested easy and simple. I like the idea of the luck cards, but having only the rules I do not know what possible results there are. They remind me very much of the assets from Hind & Seek, which are as stated assets which can be used to improve a gamer’s situation, create additional resources or defeat an opponent’s asset.

    Leaders have less effect as part of their usefulness, IMHO, falls into the impulse system. Either giving each leader an impulse point value, which sounds good but may cause slowing of the game, or requiring leaders to remain with units under their command would help with the issue of command and control wrt unit cohesion. Again this is intended to bring up ideas as much as find “the one true game”. Thank you for the idea.

    #146210
    Stephen Madjanovich
    Participant

    One aspect from, I think, crossfire is the idea that units will tend to sprint between areas of cover. So no requirement for movement distances but what is needed is a very “busy” game board/table with lots of terrain for units to sprint between. An interesting idea and I assume there are rules to allow engaging those units “in the open” as they move from cover to cover. No End in Sight (NEiS) uses a different mechanic where you roll movement for each trooper to see if they make across those gaps. If they don’t and the enemy has LOS then there is hell to pay. After playing a couple games this led to a lot of turns where units did nothing rather then risk getting stuck and we kept re-starting the game after adding still more terrain. Not satisfactory in the end. I would like to hear if crossfire degenerates into stagnant units when faced with crossing open ground in LOS of the enemy and if not what mechanism solves that.

    #146211
    Goliad
    Participant

    If anyone has a link to potential games please post it. There was some interesting aspects, such as although individuals they operated as teams and squads and there was some unit based command requirements. i cannot find my saved link now and would like to revisit these rules. Thank you.

    Is this the AAR you were looking for? System is Disposable Heroes II. http://disposableheroesii.blogspot.com/2018/07/welcome-to-disposable-heroes-ii.html

    #146213
    Stephen Madjanovich
    Participant

    If anyone has a link to potential games please post it. There was some interesting aspects, such as although individuals they operated as teams and squads and there was some unit based command requirements. i cannot find my saved link now and would like to revisit these rules. Thank you.

    Is this the AAR you were looking for? System is Disposable Heroes II. http://disposableheroesii.blogspot.com/2018/07/welcome-to-disposable-heroes-ii.html

    Bingo. This is for larger scale games but I wanted to compare these rules with Chain of Command. There may also have been some points to steal. Thank you very much.

    #146214
    Whirlwind
    Participant

    I’m not sure you will actually like it (so awaiting your closer definition of what you want), I think according to your initial criteria that Phil Barker’s The Sharp End should work. It has basing as you suggest, scaled as you suggest, very infantry-based, has activations based on real sub-units that don’t allow you to activate everything but do allow you to choose what is activated.

    https://hereticalgaming.blogspot.co.uk/

    #146215
    Stephen Madjanovich
    Participant

    Whirlwind. Not a set of rules on my radar so I have downloaded them and will give them a read. Thank you.

    #146216
    Stephen Madjanovich
    Participant

    Anyone know lock N load tactical. Again I have heard of it but no access or experience so I have no idea if it would be applicable.

    #146219
    Chris Pringle
    Participant

    Fireball Forward?

    #146221
    Stephen Madjanovich
    Participant

    Chris

    Had a quick read through the activation section of the rules of FF I have. Very interesting and I like the approach. I would need to read more of the rules to determine how useful the initiative chip part is. I did not read all the remaining rules on movement, combat morale etc. as at this time I am trying to find systems to address my concerns first. Plus the way units activate definitely keeps you following your unit organization.

    I like it an will keep going on this one. One consideration, perhaps it is covered later in the rules, but I can see each player running between a couple platoons and a couple companies each. Based on typical chances a small force would be more likely for all units to be able to activate every turn or phase. I also need to read more closely the opportunity activation section. Thank you for pointing out that set of rules though.

    #146222
    Stephen Madjanovich
    Participant

    I’m not sure you will actually like it (so awaiting your closer definition of what you want), I think according to your initial criteria that Phil Barker’s The Sharp End should work. It has basing as you suggest, scaled as you suggest, very infantry-based, has activations based on real sub-units that don’t allow you to activate everything but do allow you to choose what is activated.

    Just had a very quick scan of the rules. Looks more like a set of ideas and concepts more than a complete rules set. Almost halfway through the “rules” (12 of 30 pages) before I start seeing game mechanics. Up to this point I see mostly definitions of units and how to set up a game. This will take some reading but I like the looks of a lot of it and can see incorporating much of it for modern and asymmetrical actions such as in Hind & Seek. Whether the core game mechanics cover my interests I am unsure of but thank you for pointing these out.

    #146223
    Stephen Madjanovich
    Participant

    Watched the Fireball Forward videos (6 in total each only a few minutes if you bypass the enclosed documentary) and have the following abservations about the game. Please correct if my interpretation or the way it was handled in the video is incorrect.

    Lessons from the you tube videos;

    1. a referee is desirable but I assume either a method could be worked out to avoid this need or the players may be able to trust each other in order to function.
    2. Fire is only one roll per element firing (I like that level) BUT very involved and requires the use of quite a few dice.
    3. Fire can be through extensive intervening terrain without adverse effect. Multiple squads fired through large swaths of woods without adverse modifiers.

    #146224
    Phil Dutré
    Participant

    One aspect from, I think, crossfire is the idea that units will tend to sprint between areas of cover. So no requirement for movement distances but what is needed is a very “busy” game board/table with lots of terrain for units to sprint between. An interesting idea and I assume there are rules to allow engaging those units “in the open” as they move from cover to cover. No End in Sight (NEiS) uses a different mechanic where you roll movement for each trooper to see if they make across those gaps. If they don’t and the enemy has LOS then there is hell to pay. After playing a couple games this led to a lot of turns where units did nothing rather then risk getting stuck and we kept re-starting the game after adding still more terrain. Not satisfactory in the end. I would like to hear if crossfire degenerates into stagnant units when faced with crossing open ground in LOS of the enemy and if not what mechanism solves that.

    Good scenario design with proper scenario objectives stops that. You need To give players an incentive to attack and take risks. Otherwise every game grinds to a halt.

    Tiny Tin Men Blog: http://snv-ttm.blogspot.com/
    Wargaming Mechanics Blog: http://wargaming-mechanics.blogspot.com/

    #146225
    Stephen Madjanovich
    Participant

    Good scenario design stops that.

    What aspect(s) would help alleviate this issue? Not trying to be combative but curious, especially wrt NEiS as I liked a lot of other parts of that game.

    OK I see you modified your post. That is what I had in mind. Thank you.

    #146227
    Tactical Painter
    Participant

    When I was playing ASL the main issue was that it was all consuming, there simply wasn’t time to learn or explore new systems (and you tend to think, why should you, you are playing the pinnacle of WWII tactical systems, aren’t you??).

    While I had grown tired of the system and its limitations it was playing Crossfire when I realised not only the limitations of ASL, but that a good abstraction/game can achieve without hundreds of pages of rules. I still have a lot of time for Crossfire, while it’s not perfect it has a simple elegance that captures much of the issues of tactical command.

    I heard Richard Clarke talking about how he approaches rules writing and his starting point is to set up a table and have units from the period and then asks the question, ‘so what happens now?’. I like this approach as my interest in military history stems much from trying to understand how anything actually happens on the battlefield. How do leaders lead units? What makes men stay on the battlefield and fight when every human impulse is to look for safety?

    The starting point is the training manuals of the period. This is what commanders wanted their men to do. All well and good but that’s the theory. The next step is to look at first hand accounts, unit diaries etc to see what actually happened. So we have on one hand, this is what men were trained to do, and on the other, this is what men actually did and how it happened. Any rule set must work at finding some sort of balance between the two. Armies did try to fight as trained but friction, the unknown, bad luck and the enemy all worked to make that as difficult as possible.

    I don’t have an answer but I do think the starting point is not so much, what rules mechanics work best for the period? As, what happened in the period and how do I find or create rules that best reflect it.

    The Tactical Painter - painting miniature armies for battles on the table top.
    http://www.thetacticalpainter.blogspot.com/

    #146229
    Chris Pringle
    Participant

    Glad you found FBF looked interesting. It’s a good clean fast game and realistic enough for my taste. The firing dice system is clever and not too involved once you get the hang of it. I don’t think it needs a referee particularly, does it? My only reservation is that only one player can act at a time, thus the more players you have in a multi-player game, the less game time each player gets. But for up to four players it’s excellent.

    #146233
    Stephen Madjanovich
    Participant

    When I was playing ASL the main issue was that it was all consuming, there simply wasn’t time to learn or explore new systems (and you tend to think, why should you, you are playing the pinnacle of WWII tactical systems, aren’t you??). While I had grown tired of the system and its limitations it was playing Crossfire when I realised not only the limitations of ASL, but that a good abstraction/game can achieve without hundreds of pages of rules. I still have a lot of time for Crossfire, while it’s not perfect it has a simple elegance that captures much of the issues of tactical command. I heard Richard Clarke talking about how he approaches rules writing and his starting point is to set up a table and have units from the period and then asks the question, ‘so what happens now?’. I like this approach as my interest in military history stems much from trying to understand how anything actually happens on the battlefield. How do leaders lead units? What makes men stay on the battlefield and fight when every human impulse is to look for safety? The starting point is the training manuals of the period. This is what commanders wanted their men to do. All well and good but that’s the theory. The next step is to look at first hand accounts, unit diaries etc to see what actually happened. So we have on one hand, this is what men were trained to do, and on the other, this is what men actually did and how it happened. Any rule set must work at finding some sort of balance between the two. Armies did try to fight as trained but friction, the unknown, bad luck and the enemy all worked to make that as difficult as possible. I don’t have an answer but I do think the starting point is not so much, what rules mechanics work best for the period? As, what happened in the period and how do I find or create rules that best reflect it.

    I was in the exact same boat with Air Superiority. I did play a few other games, some wargames and RPGs but if anyone said anything about alternate modern air games it would go nowhere. We played one or two games during the week and at least an entire day each weekend.

    That is what I am looking for. A game which may or may not worry about how many rounds each of your troops in a company are carrying and exactly how many they have expended to that point, but one that gives a good feel for the period and theatre. With ASL you are concentrating on game mechanics as opposed to the scenario. With CoH the scenario quickly (I had to become comfortable with the rules first, realistically) become the goal. With AS, as you were usually only playing a single plane, your skill and knowledge of the equipment and rules was important.

    Thank you for the input.

    #146234
    Stephen Madjanovich
    Participant

    Glad you found FBF looked interesting. It’s a good clean fast game and realistic enough for my taste. The firing dice system is clever and not too involved once you get the hang of it. I don’t think it needs a referee particularly, does it? My only reservation is that only one player can act at a time, thus the more players you have in a multi-player game, the less game time each player gets. But for up to four players it’s excellent.

    They mention the use of a referee a lot in the rules I read and the videos, that is why I assumed. When I get a chance to look at them closer ways to eliminate the need for a referee may become obvious. I have a hard enough time finding opponents even before covid so extra players, even a single guy acting as a referee, is highly unlikely. As I said earlier (or thought) I have played multi player games of Bolt Action whose only purpose is everyone doesn’t sit around too long before it is their turn again.

    One big bug for me is armour. I came into this hobby with a totally armour centric set of rules (Tractics) and it has taken me decades to find the infantry action more intriguing. So I can see having no or very little armour for most scenarios but still will have a penchant for some primarily armour engagements. To that end I have no illusions and feel I will in all likelihood incorporate very detailed armour rules into anything I play. My bad!

    #146257
    Phil Dutré
    Participant

    Good scenario design stops that.

    What aspect(s) would help alleviate this issue? Not trying to be combative but curious, especially wrt NEiS as I liked a lot of other parts of that game. OK I see you modified your post. That is what I had in mind. Thank you.

    Sorry, your answer and my edit must have crossed each other.

    But anyway, any ruleset assumes (often implicitly) a specific genre of scenario, density of troops, density of terrain, etc. for the ruleset to ‘work’ properly. Crossfire works best with dense terrain. Other rulesets such as 18th century with a focus on regiment manoeuvre assumes a lot of open terrain. Some rulesets are specifically written with the point values/army lists model in kind.

    Finding a good ruleset that suits your needs also often means asking yourself what type of scenario you like to play or what your favoured approach to wargaming is.

    Tiny Tin Men Blog: http://snv-ttm.blogspot.com/
    Wargaming Mechanics Blog: http://wargaming-mechanics.blogspot.com/

    #146258
    Phil Dutré
    Participant

    Glad you found FBF looked interesting. It’s a good clean fast game and realistic enough for my taste. The firing dice system is clever and not too involved once you get the hang of it. I don’t think it needs a referee particularly, does it? My only reservation is that only one player can act at a time, thus the more players you have in a multi-player game, the less game time each player gets. But for up to four players it’s excellent.

    They mention the use of a referee a lot in the rules I read and the videos, that is why I assumed. When I get a chance to look at them closer ways to eliminate the need for a referee may become obvious. I have a hard enough time finding opponents even before covid so extra players, even a single guy acting as a referee, is highly unlikely. As I said earlier (or thought) I have played multi player games of Bolt Action whose only purpose is everyone doesn’t sit around too long before it is their turn again. One big bug for me is armour. I came into this hobby with a totally armour centric set of rules (Tractics) and it has taken me decades to find the infantry action more intriguing. So I can see having no or very little armour for most scenarios but still will have a penchant for some primarily armour engagements. To that end I have no illusions and feel I will in all likelihood incorporate very detailed armour rules into anything I play. My bad!

    In my group, we often have a plumpire (player-umpire), who acts as referee, but not in the sense of umpire as in a football game, but as director of a play. IMO, that’s a much better way of looking at the notion of using a referee in a wargame. The referee as director has to make sure the games moves along, and change/adjust/interpret the scenario as the game progresses.

    Tiny Tin Men Blog: http://snv-ttm.blogspot.com/
    Wargaming Mechanics Blog: http://wargaming-mechanics.blogspot.com/

    #146264
    bobm
    Participant

    You mention Nordic Weasel games and appeared generally favourable.  You didn’t indicate whether you’d tried Hammer of Democracy which is at the scale you’re wanting to play.

    It is well thought out and plays well.  The artillery/mortar rules left me a little confused at first but the author responded very quickly by email with examples of play.

    It appears to address a lot of what you list as important in a game.

    PBI by RFCM (Peter Pig) is another set which addresses the style of game you’re after.  However I have not played these after buying and reading the first edition.

    There's 10 types of people in the world. Those who understand binary and those who don't.....

    #146348
    John D Salt
    Participant

    1. Command and control which requires the player to deal with an inability to do everything with perfect knowledge of the situation and your own sides performance and the enemy’s disposition and to a lesser degree their capabilities.
    2. Real world unit organizations and command structure.
    3. An easy to deal with sequence of play. (my words based on his points)
    [snips]
    I would rather find or slightly modify an existing game but like many of you I am sure I have very specific aspects I am willing to compromise on and ones I want.

    Arriving late into this thread, let me annoy everyone straight away by suggesting that the three points listed are all aspects of the same big point: Modelling command and control, henceforward C2. The real world organization and command structure exist only to support the ability of the commander to get their forces to do what they want them to do, and confirm that they have done it. The sequence of play exists only to limit the ability of the player to get their toy soldiers to do what they want them to do, which is then usually confirmed instantly, apparently by lossless telepathy.

    So the question boils down to “how do we wargame C2”?, which is not a question with a short or simple answer. However it might be helpful to keep that question in mind when looking at different sequences of play — is the turn sequence/activation scheme/set of command radii intended to model C2, or provide a game mechanism for the fun of mechanism?

    As Phil Barker points out, the function of a C2 system in a wargame is to limit the players’ freedom of action, whereas the real life one is supposed to enhance the commanders’, so they are doing approximately opposite things.

    The guy I played it with said, when I asked him why not play CoC instead, “this way everybody gets a turn right away, no waiting”.

    A lot of wargamers, as above, really hate having their freedom of action limited. Quite a lot really hate planning, or at least being compelled to stick to the plans they have made. This is rather unfortunate for the modelling of C2, as an awful lot of command work is planning, and a lot of low-level battlefield leadership is sorting out the car crash when the plan meets reality.

    I heard Richard Clarke talking about how he approaches rules writing and his starting point is to set up a table and have units from the period and then asks the question, ‘so what happens now?’. I like this approach as my interest in military history stems much from trying to understand how anything actually happens on the battlefield. How do leaders lead units? What makes men stay on the battlefield and fight when every human impulse is to look for safety?

    The starting point is the training manuals of the period. This is what commanders wanted their men to do. All well and good but that’s the theory. The next step is to look at first hand accounts, unit diaries etc to see what actually happened.

    Excellent advice: but notice what’s missing from the table-top setup. The terrain is represented, the soldiers are represented. The toy soldiers may be arranged in a way that acknowledges the existence of some kind of command hierarchy, and leader figures may be exercising the prerogative of their toy soldier rank by waving their pistol in the air, looking over their shoulder, and using their other hand to motion their soldiers forward; and they may be accompanied by a radio operator, or perhaps a bugler. But apart from that, there is not skerrick of representation anywhere of command, control, or communications. What should there be?

    Real military C2 arrangements depend principally on the existence of a plan. Any commissioned officer in any army is expected to be able to make a plan, based on what they know of the situation and normally to achieve some aim set in their commander’s plan; to give orders based on the plan; and to see that the orders are carried out. What are the elements of a plan? I find it helpful to think in terms of control measures similar to (but much simpler than) those currently in use with the British Army.

    There will pretty much always be an objective. This is the place on the ground that the plan requires to be captured, held, protected, cleared, searched, denied, reconnoitred, demolished, or whatever it is the mission is about. Each level of command may have its own objective as part of a larger one, but it is a pretty good way to banjax things utterly to tell a single element to do two things at once, so each should only have one objective in force at a time.

    There may also be targets. These are places that need to be looked at or shot at, and they may well be part of a formal fire plan as target reference points for artillery or mortars. I include here areas that would be known in current jargon as NAIs (named areas of interest, where to look) and TAIs (targeted areas of interest, where to shoot), although TAI doesn’t sound as warry as “fire sack”, “killing zone”, or “engagement area”.

    There may well be control lines. These describe some limitation such as not crossing them (boundaries or limits of exploitation), not dropping air weapons one side of them (bomb line), crossing them at a specified time (start line, phase lines) or performing some action when you cross them (reporting line) or when the enemy does (open fire line).

    Some of the above concepts are reflected in the “German infantry in the West” translation I posted recently in the WW2 forum, and, it has to be said, there is a certain appeal to the Germanic-sounding “Angriffsziel” instead of “objective” and “Hauptkampflinie” instead of “main line of resistance”. A particularly Germanic C2 idea is that of a Schwerpunkt, or in English “Main Effort”, which serves to concentrate the attention of subordinate commanders on what really matters. The Russians also used the concept (“Glavniy Udar'”), and at the operational level liked to switch these about both to make best use of their limited logistic infrastructure and to baffle the enemy. Democratic and egalitarian western nations seem less keen on the idea, preferring to treat everyone equally, which is a lovely way of sharing out sweets, but not such a great idea for fighting a war.

    The plan may be arranged in phases, which means essentially having a number of planlets that succeed each other in time order. This is a way to give a single element a series of objectives (“Seize and clear Home Farm, then advance to Gravelly Hill, then cover 18 Platoon as they cross the Little Ouse at Fiddlers’ Ford”) without making its brain explode. Obviously the plan would need to include some signal, trigger or condition to indicate to subordinates when to move from one phase to another. In some armies (not typically the British Army in WW2) things may be more complicated than a simple linear sequence of phases, and there may be decision points which conditionally decide which of a series of contingency plans is supposed to be executed.

    The plan will have a number of tasks, which are the things that need doing in different places or to different people at different times. “Attack”, “Advance”, “Hold”, “Retire”, “Demolish”, “Cover by fire”, “Infiltrate”, “Probe”, one can think of dozens, and the trick is to find a small enough set of possibilities not to drive the commander/player mad and allow most militarily sensible actions to be described. I observe that “Find”, “Fix”, “Strike” and “Exploit” are a good current top-level bunch of military tasks that should get you a long way. Typically planning decides, first, what tasks need to be achieved and where, and then assigns troops to tasks and worries about when. Assigning troops to task is a big part of establishing one of the main products of modern military planning, the Synchro Matrix, which essentially shows who is doing what when. Even a brigade synchro matrix can be quite a small graphic.

    Advanced wargamers might like the idea of giving different arms, or different armies with different levels of training, a different repertoire of tactical tasks — only engineers or assault pioneers can “demolish”, only recce troops can “probe”, these tanks are too poorly-trained to “jockey”, things like that. The current WRG WW2 rules and the computer game “Combat Mission” have both attempted something along those lines.

    Even such a simple order as “Two section, take out that trench” has an objective and a specified task, has assigned troops to task, and probably has a bunch of implied phases and tasks arising out of a trained battle drill. A drill is really a kind of pickled and preserved skeleton plan, that can be hoiked out of the jar at a moment’s notice and the odd missing bits filled in. A British section trained in battle drill will automatically advance until it comes under effective fire, then win the firefight, then advance by fire and movement, then assault the objective, then reorganise a safe distance past it. There is no need for a commander to tell his subordinates what to do if everyone knows the drill; and one of the great benefits of this, apart from getting people to automatically do something militarily sensible under fire, is that it reduces the communications load drastically if you know what everyone else is doing because it’s the drill (and in a well-trained unit, this can look suspiciously like telepathy).

    Which brings us to communications. I like the RN definition that “communications are the means by which command exercises control”. I also like my old pal Delwyn Morgan’s reminder that “all communications channels are selective erasure channels”. It is very difficult for people accustomed to the twitterspherical interwebular networld to understand just how slow, painful and unreliable military tactical radio communications were in the days of Larkspur, never mind WW2 vintage radios. To quote WO 232/77, “Communications within the Infantry Battalion”, quoting a jaundiced Staffs Yeomanry officer in 1944:

    “Bad Infantry Communications. These are without exception deplorable. There is the general defeatist attitude amongst infantry that their communications are bound to fail once the battle starts. The attitude is justified as they always do.”

    A lot of signals (as distinct from messages, which need richer media) can be sent by rocket, Very light, whistle, or bugle. Messages might be send by K-Blink or flag. In a night ambush, it is traditional for the signal to open fire being the ambush commander’s most powerful weapon opening fire. Often, such limited means as these may be the only levers of control a commander has of incluencing the battle once it has started. The other possibility, under the doctrine of “forward command”, is for the commander to influence affairs at the decisive point by their own personal presence there. This is great in wargaming terms, as it justifies the use of a “personal” figure representing the commander, who can influence their local bit of the battle, at considerable personal risk. It also gives players the possibility of killing each other, and raises the question of whether a win on points should count as a victory if the player’s figure becomes a casualty (DBA suggests not).

    I always used to say that miniatures wargamers will not take any of these matters seriously until there are little metal castings available representing tasks, boundaries, objectives and engagement areas. With the rise in popularity of neat plastic markers and game accessories such as those made by Litko, maybe the time is not so far off.

    Ever since Don Featherstone mocked the “Command and Staff boys” whose approach to wargaming he thought too serious, miniature wargamers have been very little interested in the sort of stuff I bang on about above. Any attempts along these lines are certain to infuriate the “fun fascists”, who will object in vituperative terms to the horrid idea of being made to think or plan ahead in a recreational game. And, it must be said, professional simulationists have over the years made a pretty miserable job of modelling military C2, which in my experience often collapses into simple-minded models of shovelling sh^H^Hinformation from one place to another in the vague hope it will do some good, and results in an ever-growing shopping-list of IERs and no greater clue than we started with.

    I’ll do a short posting one day, promise.

    All the best,

    John.

    #146350
    Guy Farrish
    Participant

    Comrade, you must tell us everything…

    No self censorship please John, fascinating post as always. These are the things that intrigue me about wargaming, keep em coming.

    #146351
    Stephen Madjanovich
    Participant

    Thank you for all the input guys. I try to read each day but may not reply as I have a 1.5 hour each way commute and fall asleep early so weekends are the best time for me to reply with some coherence.

    #146359
    JozisTinMan
    Participant

    “I always used to say that miniatures wargamers will not take any of these matters seriously until there are little metal castings available representing tasks, boundaries, objectives and engagement areas. With the rise in popularity of neat plastic markers and game accessories such as those made by Litko, maybe the time is not so far off.”

    John, insightful as always. This may be my next 3d printing project. I can see printing unit boundaries, phase lines, and engagement areas easily.

    http://jozistinman.blogspot.com/

    #146449
    Stephen Madjanovich
    Participant

    Good scenario design stops that.

    What aspect(s) would help alleviate this issue? Not trying to be combative but curious, especially wrt NEiS as I liked a lot of other parts of that game. OK I see you modified your post. That is what I had in mind. Thank you.

    Sorry, your answer and my edit must have crossed each other. But anyway, any ruleset assumes (often implicitly) a specific genre of scenario, density of troops, density of terrain, etc. for the ruleset to ‘work’ properly. Crossfire works best with dense terrain. Other rulesets such as 18th century with a focus on regiment manoeuvre assumes a lot of open terrain. Some rulesets are specifically written with the point values/army lists model in kind. Finding a good ruleset that suits your needs also often means asking yourself what type of scenario you like to play or what your favoured approach to wargaming is.

    Agreed, but a set of rules which impose specific conditions for the terrain is just a game. If playing in North Africa doesn’t suit the game then it can’t carry over to different theatres and is therefore limited, not by the nature of warfare but by the conditions imposed by the rules. I have printed crossfire out and will be reading it this weekend. Thank you.

    #146450
    Stephen Madjanovich
    Participant

    Glad you found FBF looked interesting. It’s a good clean fast game and realistic enough for my taste. The firing dice system is clever and not too involved once you get the hang of it. I don’t think it needs a referee particularly, does it? My only reservation is that only one player can act at a time, thus the more players you have in a multi-player game, the less game time each player gets. But for up to four players it’s excellent.

    They mention the use of a referee a lot in the rules I read and the videos, that is why I assumed. When I get a chance to look at them closer ways to eliminate the need for a referee may become obvious. I have a hard enough time finding opponents even before covid so extra players, even a single guy acting as a referee, is highly unlikely. As I said earlier (or thought) I have played multi player games of Bolt Action whose only purpose is everyone doesn’t sit around too long before it is their turn again. One big bug for me is armour. I came into this hobby with a totally armour centric set of rules (Tractics) and it has taken me decades to find the infantry action more intriguing. So I can see having no or very little armour for most scenarios but still will have a penchant for some primarily armour engagements. To that end I have no illusions and feel I will in all likelihood incorporate very detailed armour rules into anything I play. My bad!

    In my group, we often have a plumpire (player-umpire), who acts as referee, but not in the sense of umpire as in a football game, but as director of a play. IMO, that’s a much better way of looking at the notion of using a referee in a wargame. The referee as director has to make sure the games moves along, and change/adjust/interpret the scenario as the game progresses.

    If the rules can be managed with one of the players being the balancing factor I am all for it. Between friends just wanting a fun game and no aggravation I love those kinds. As I said just finding an opponent has been enough of a challenge. Some are very “go with the flow” while other more opinionated and strict in their interpretation and application of the rules. Variety is the spice of life and while I like to go with the flow a lot I also like opponents who both keep me on my toes and by so doing assure me I am interpreting the rules correctly.

    #146451
    Stephen Madjanovich
    Participant

    John. A long and insightful post. I will go through the others then come back and try to address your points and ideas one at a time. Thank you for the input.

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