EXERT FROM APPENDIX 1 from Don Featherstone's Battles With Model Soldiers
(The book that got me started.)

"Nothing in these pages is a dictate, no word says you must or you shall do it this way. On the contrary, the book sets out from the very beginning to stimulate the reader to think for himself, and to use what he has read merely as a foundation for efforts and ideas which reflect his own temperament and character. Only in this way will he obtain maximum satisfaction from the hobby of battling with model soldiers."

-Don Featherstone 1918 - 2013

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Of Men and Machines

 I'm not currently planning to spend today writing rules for 20th C wargames (mind you it's only mid morning and I have a nasty cold so who knows?). I do, however, want to capture some random thoughts on the subject.

Before I start, let me just say that while I was occasionally sent to hump through the woods with a steel hat and an FNC1 rifle when I was young, the shooting was always blanks or on a range. I've never been fired on or fired at people or had buddies blown apart beside me. I have talked to enough people  that have experienced those things to know that talking and reading or watching movies isn't ever going to be the same but I'm not at all sorry to have missed those experiences. OK moving along.

There's often a lot of attention in wargames to armour thickness and the size of your big gun and there is no doubt that these things are important. The more I read and listen though, and the 20thC is pretty low on my list so that's not anywhere as much as it could be, the more one gets the impression that what happens after that shell hits the enemy tank  is almost the smallest part of things. All the rest of how you move through terrain, who sees who first and at what range, who can traverse better, who has better sights and above all who has a better gunner , driver and crew commander are all more important as was the business of getting not one tank but a whole platoon or company to where they were supposed to be. Not to mention that there seem to have been a surprising number of essentially intact tanks abandoned by their crews for various reasons from the trivial bit of not being able to see which way to go when the drivers optics are shattered to knowing that odds are good that a bigger shell is about to follow. . However, in my mind, unless you are playing a highly detailed micro skirmish game on super detailed terrain, these things are all part of the imponderables that go into the die roll to see what affect your units' fire has on the enemy.  I'm not sure that I've played many more than a dozen sets of WWII/post WWII  rules over the years, but as far as I can see, the old Featherstone/Tarr/Grant system of a roll to hit and a system of attack value+die vs defense value is as valid away to resolve things as any other, even when you are only using a couple of models to represent a company.

On that last subject, since I don't want to do either men or vehicles at 1:1 and don't wish to do rosters, what I really want to know is the status of my "wargame unit" whether that is one stand or a group of stands. Once again, I am no longer in favour of a separate "morale" test which supposedly measures the units reaction to the damage it has sustained. It seems to me that the original combat/fire resolutions already has or should have a large morale component to it (eg "suppressed" or "pinned" results in some rules). Essentially, a unit is fired on, possibly suffers some losses and is then in 1 of three states: Still Functioning, Temporarily Impaired or Inhibited in some fashion or Effectively Incapacitated or Destroyed for at least the length of the game. The state of individual soldiers or vehicles is not immediately relevant to the Battalion commander or the gamer, what he needs to know is, "Is 13 Platoon still holding/Attacking or do I need to do something?".
Not affected and destroyed are pretty easy to include in the rules. Its going to take some thought as to what the intervening state or states should be. I also need to decide if each stand/.vehicle is a unit or if I would prefer to deal with groups of stands.

Time, Movement and Reactions are also difficult matters. There is a lot to be said for the idea of troops bounding from cover to cover rather than moving fixed or variable distances but I have various issues with all the implementations that I have seen so far when taken out of the designed context. I think I may get the effect that I want by greatly increasing movement rates from conventional OS ones but including inter-active enemy reactions and reasons for troops to bound from cover to cover and to stop and see what's happening, not to mention having a firebase to provide cover fire.

Time for more tea.        





  1. I have certainly been thinking through what I would like from a "new" WWII game. I'd like to slice things in such a way that "units" can translate 1:1 into Table to Teaser units given my miniatures inventory and a playable number of figures on the table.

  2. This is likely to end up being aimed squarely at my 1/72nd RCW with a bolt on option for fictional 1950's but that's a smart criteria to include.

  3. I expect we have different destinations, but we may be able to share some of the journey.

  4. Ross - you're bang on the button so far in my view - looking forward to more...

    In my old home grown rules I had four morale states, "good" plus...

    1/. Shaken:
    • unit must not advance towards the enemy, and if it is in an exposed position (i.e. within 12” of an enemy) it must withdraw towards nearest cover, and away from the enemy.
    • at the end of the turn the unit remains shaken.
    2/. Suppressed:
    • unit may not move except if it is in an exposed position (i.e. within 12” of an enemy), when it must withdraw towards nearest cover, and away from the enemy.
    • a unit in the open is considered to be digging in (takes 2 turns to complete)
    • at the end of the turn the unit remains suppressed.
    3/. Routs:
    • unit must move directly away from the cause at rout speed (road rate - irrespective of terrain, towards the nearest friendly cover). This cover may be behind another friendly unit, into woods, buildings or off the friendly edge of the table.
    • the routing unit may not move such that it reduces the distance to any visible enemy unit (i.e. the routing unit must be further away from any enemy unit at the end of the move than at the beginning), and may not fire.
    • it takes 1 pt. damage the first turn it routs
    • at the end of the turn the unit remains routed.