EXCERPT 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, December 10, 2013

Tanks for the Memoirs (updated 17 Dec)

Tank fire updated 9 Jan 
There has been some interest on the modifications Ron Porter and I have been experimenting with for Memoir44 so I thought I would summarize them here so others could try them or adapt them for their own games.  All of these are fairly new with only a handful of tests games and some have been quite changed since first introduced. Most can be used indepentantly of each other and in all cases where not specified usual rules apply.

None of these rule changes are official and I will only list the changes and not go into detail on the rules themselves which may be downloaded from the official site.  http://www.daysofwonder.com/memoir44/en/

The first reason we started to fiddle was that we were playing CS Grant & S Asquith scenarios and teasers on a 5'x6' table but using the Memoir 44 rules, cards and dice. There is always some accommodation to be made when adapting the scenarios or teasers to one's one table and rules but two things caused us especial problems: the zones and the short movement and ranges compared to the terrain we were playing on. Once we started resolving those issues, the box was open as it were and we proceeded to scratch the issue of having a difference between some of the various bits of equipment that we could field. Here are the current house modifications we use.
  1. Hills.  Because Ron has a good collection of Hexon tiles, he can build nice rolling terrain and reproduce the scenario maps reasonably closely.  The first problem was that the rules are designed around single level, single hex hills. After various experiments that had as much to do with "the look of the thing" as anything else, we have adopted the following:
    1. Hills. Hills have 2 components: hilltop hexes and slope hexes. 
      • Hill top hexes are considered flat and a unit may see along any number of hill top hexes of the same elevation. 
      • Slope hexes are considered uneven. When looking along a slope one can see into but not through another hex slope of the same elevation. 
      • Elevation levels. Slopes and hilltops are numbered for convenience with the lowest level being 1, the next 2 etc. (ground level being 0) . Some hexon slope hexes are double height, if so they count the same as other slopes that end at the same higher level. 
      • Deadground. When tracing line of sight between hexes, intervening hexes that are lower than the highest of the 2 hexes are ignored but hexes that are as high as the highest of the hexes will block line of sight. In other words a unit must be on the edge of a hill to see or be seen, if it is more than 1 hex back from the edge then it is in dead ground and cannot see or be seen except by another unit on the same level. In case of doubt, common sense, a degree of familiarity with real life ground, a straight edge and a sporting attitude should be used to make a decision on LOS.  
      • Example. Its hard to make out in the picture up top but look at the stand with the red label next to the destroyed tank and at the ruined building. The building is at ground level, then there is a level 1 slope then the stand is on a level 2 hilltop, the knocked out tank is on a level 3 slope, then there is an extensive level 4 plateau. Because LOS is center to center, the stand could not see the other knocked out tank as the LOS would cross a level 4 hex first. It would be able to see the other tagged stand and could see across the gully to the stands on the slopes and edge of the far hill.
  2. Distance. When playing various Teasers and other scenarios it was soon obvious that most were designed for somewhat longer ranges and movement compared to the size of the table than what we found ourselves with. The reverse was true of the rules which were designed for smaller terrain features and fewer hexes.

    The movement issue could mostly be bypassed by playing more turns although the introduction of "on the move" cards helped but the ranges remained an issue. When an artillery battery doesn't have the range to shoot all the way across a small village, something feels wrong and some of the scenarios became impractical.

    Our solution was to double all movement and all ranges. So far the game has felt more dramatic, terrain has resumed the sort of tactical role that we have been used to over the years, artillery can again cover large chunks of the playing board and generally  the game feels even better than before. (Note this is not recommended for playing on tables that reproduce the game board.)
  3. Command and Sectors. The original game scenarios are all designed to conform to the rules structure of 3 sectors, Left, Center and Right. The Teasers we play often have multiple entry points, sometimes on more than 1 board edge or with sides approaching from the same or adjacent edges, or there is an objective such as a bridge that funnels activity to a degree. We didn't want to give up the cards and structure of the game so we struggled with various options for laying out the sectors but at last we decided on a form of flexible sector that also brought in a use for existing command stands. 
    1. Commanders & Sectors: Each side has an Over-all or Center Commander with a 4 hex command radius and a Left and a Right Commander each with a 3 hex command radius. The designations have no geographic significance but are merely to identify which sector cards apply to which leader. The leaders may be placed and moved as the players require.  A Commander can order any unit within his sector but where sectors overlap a unit may only be ordered once per turn. (example if a card allows All units in the Center to be ordered, all units within 4 hexes of the Center Commander could be ordered, if it was 2 units on the left then up to 2 units within 3 hexes of the Left Commander could be ordered. 
    2. Moving Commanders. A commander may move up to 3 hexes (6 if using double movement) when he issues orders. This does not use up one of his orders.  A Left and Right Commander may also be ordered as if he was a unit if he is within  the command sector of the Center Commander. Any commander may move as if they were a unit on any "on the move" card.  For clarity in these last 2 cases they move instead of a unit not in addition to unlike when they are issuing the orders. 
    3. Commanders and Battle. Commanders do not battle and may not be attacked. If over run by an enemy unit they will retreat. They do not block the line of fire. (We did play with other options but there were complications re the sector cards that we chose to avoid.
    4. ZOC & retreat. Even before we increased movement we didn't  like the ability of a unit to skirt past an enemy and the difficulty of establishing a meaningful "rear" for some of the scenarios has led us to introduce the following:
      1. ZOC. A unit must stop when it moves adjacent to an enemy unit. If it begins adjacent to an enemy it may move normally. It follows that if it moves from 1 adjacent hex to another adjacent hex it must again stop. (Note if using double distance the ZOC extends to 2 hexes but clise assault is still adjacent so we allow units to move from the 2 hex position to adjacent.)
      2. Retreat. Units forced to retreat by a flag may not retreat adjacent to an enemy. Subject to that, the unit may retreat in any direction that is clear as long as each hex it enters is farther away from the enemy causing the retreat. Penalties for not being able to retreat are as per the rules. (When using doubled hexes we allow units to retreat through a zoc but not to end its retreat on a zoc hex).
    5. Tanks. We didn't like the "Roll a grenade to confirm a hit on X" rules and didn't like there not being any difference between say a Stuart and a T34/85. It didn't take long to find that there are too many different guns, speeds and armour thicknesses to cover every possibility and that it was really easy to over complicate things and lose the beauty and simplicity of the game. We ended up with this compromise.  ** After another test wr decided that this version did not have the right effect and was too tedious with theneed to remember which symbol hit what. We decided to revert to a previous version inspired by the original Tiger rule. In practice the diffetence in numbers of dice and hits and the rules around coise assaults and the armored assault dar gave the righteffect. Lighter tanks need to rely on close assaults with their pu breakthrough and in numbers to tank out a heavy tank.**
      1. Tank Weight. Tanks may be classed as Light, Medium or Heavy. Decide for yourself which are which. 
        1. A Heavy Tank (eg Tiger) moves 2 (4 if doubled) and takes 4 hits. fire from light & medium anti-tank or tank guns only hit on a Grenade. Heavy tank/anti-tank guns hit as normal.
        2. A Medium Tank (eg Sherman) moves 3 (6 if doubled) and takes 3 hits. Fire from light anti-tank or tank guns only hit on a Grenade. Medium & Heavy tank/anti-tank guns hit as normal. 
        3. A Light Tank (eg Stuart) moves 4 (8 if doubled) and takes 2 hits. but fire from all anti-tank/tank guns hit as normal. 
        4. Open Topped. AFV without overhead armour are more vulnerable to artillery fire (see below)
      2. Tank/Anti-tank Guns. Guns are classed as Heavy, Medium or Light whether they are vehicle or ground mounted. Ground ones move as artillery.  Light guns get 2 dice, medium guns get 3 dice, heavy guns get 4 dice.
      3.  . All guns have 3 dice at all ranges.
        1. A Heavy gun has a range of 4 (8 if doubled) (eg 17 pdr)
        2. A Medium gun has a range of 3 (6 if doubled) (eg 75mm)
        3. A Light gun has a range of 2 (4 if doubled) (eg 2 pounder)
      4. Examples: A Sherman is a Medium tank with a Medium gun. A Wolverine  (SPAT w 17 pdr) would be a Light Open Topped tank with heavy gun. A Churchill would be a Heavy Tank with a Medium Gun, A Firefly would be a Medium Tank with a Heavy gun.
      5. Infantry AT capability. Weight of tank has no effect on infantry fire. The Winter War infantry AT rules apply to units with bazookas etc. Infantry with effective AT weapons like bazookas hit as usual. Other infantry only hit as normal if close assaulting but only hit on flags from fsther away.
      6. Artillery fire. Artillery fire only hits tanks on a grenade unless open topped in which case tanks or grenades hit. 
    6. Unit Translations.  The following are not really rules changes just how we represent things.
      1. Mortars. 2"/50mm mortars use the Winter Wars mortar rules. 3"/81mm mortars count as artillery.
      2. Artillery. 25 pdr/105mm artillery counts as Big Guns. Heavier artillery is represented by the Barrage card.
Feel free to use or borrow some or any of these ideas and modify to taste. Questions, comments, feedback and suggestions welcomed.


  1. Hi Ross,
    Those rule mods look really good. I assume from context that you are not playing that grenades only hit in close combat. And you are playing that all tanks take 3 hits to knock out.
    Question: if you were playing a Memoir 44 scenario in your enlarged scale, and it called for elite tanks (4 hits), how would you translate that?
    I would like to see you and Ron try Grant's Assault River Crossing scenario, to see how your translation compared to mine.

  2. Correct, grenades always hit, at any range, unless specified otherwise

    Yes all tanks normally take 3 hits. (We did experiment with 2/3/4 hits for light/medium/hvy but didn't like the result as much)

    We would give an elite unit and extra hit.

    I'll put a request in for the new year for assault crossing. Meanwhile the Red forces would be:
    - Grant: 8 inf, 2 Lt Inf, 2 LC, 2 HC, 4 guns (notes in front indicate inf is 2x the size of lt inf or cav,)

    = Us : 16 inf units, 2 lt inf (able to move 2 and battle), 2 Light or Medium AFV, 2 Heavy or Medium tank , 4 guns chosen from what models are available: 81mm mortar, 105mm howitzers, SP artillery, Anti-tank gun.

    Infantry units may be assigned 1 heavy weapon (mg, bazooka, 2" mortar etc) depending on figure availability. Boats would have to be discussed.

    1. Sounds good.
      Since I was playing on the Memoir 44 board, I used 12 star counters for boats, with a unit able to carry 4, and each boat able to transfer one figure per turn from one side of the river to the other but still on the same tile until complete and could move off. Hits were re-rolled with a grenade indicating a boat zapped, so after casualties it could take more than one turn to get a unit across.
      It was fun, but with the limited space on the Memoir 44 board, there was no room for maneuver, and the attacker was usually badly shot up, and usually lost.
      Thanks Ross.

  3. Wow Ross, linking the "sector" to commanders rather than geography must have been a real Eureka moment. Inspired. I've got to give this a go. Generally how big are your boards in hex terms?
    Thanks for posting this.

    1. Andrew, Ron keeps telling me but I keep forgetting. The board is 5 foot x 6 ft and the hexes are 10cm across the flat. (I've only 1/2 converted to metric) The exact number varies depending on which way the grain runs - (some terrain features work better if the hexes are turned) but around 15 x 18.

  4. Good switch from sector to commander for activations. What is the penalty for being out of command? No activation possible?

    1. Activation is less likely rather than impossible.

      The majority of the cards require units to be in command since commanders can only order units within their radius but there are some cards that don't specify sectors such as "armoured assault", "Direct from HQ" etc and these can be used for any units even those not in command as can "on the move" cards.

  5. Ross,
    I have great confidence that whatever choices you make they will be reasoned and reasonable. My problem is the accuracy of the hand grenade - it just does not resonate as being historic or realistic. Even the best major league pitchers occasionally will throw a ball - and the fellows throwing grenades are not major leaguers. (Mostly....) Allow for errors in accuracy, for duds, and for ineffective blasts and the percentage has to be a lower than absolute certainty.
    Be well and if I don't communicate between now and the Holidays,
    Happy Holidays!! Merry Christmas, Happy New Year Joyous Kwanzaa, Merry festivus...etc...etc...

    1. Jerry, my opponent in the last game proved just how hard it can be to land a grenade on a target.

      Happy festivities to you as well!

  6. Once again Ross you have posted some thought provoking ideas and inspiration, just at the time when I'm also getting into Memoir 44 with miniatures :-) I'll take my time and enjoy reading through the post properly again later.