Sunday, October 21, 2012

Check Point Frankie

Ok so apparently these guys are't part of NATO. Without any clear starting point yesterday, I pulled out  figures and terrain and sort of let them sort themselves and suggest something. What it developed into was a check point along a road with a convoy of trucks that needs to pass through. Since I hadn't got as far as doing opposing forces, I needed some way to break them down. Red Berets vs Helmets seemed the most obvious mark. A quick count showed that the Beret's were in the minority so they were the obvious candidates to defend. Divided into 2 figure "units" that gave a Commander, a Mortar and 3 infantry  defending against an A/T gun, mortar, commander and 6 infantry, which is where we found ourselves yesterday. Some how the Red Berets became the forces of Order and the Greater Good while the Greens are the champions of Liberty and Freedom.

Set up for the Modern Portable Wargame. 

I really enjoyed Bob's Memory of Modern  Battle  rules when I gave them a try last year as well as enjoying a number of games using various versions of the  Portable Wargames. Looking at the newest Modern Portable Wargame, I realized that some of the changes Bob had made since the original didn't appeal to me and that the ranges and moves might look out of place with the situation and figures that I had set up but I decided to go ahead since I have been wrong before. about how rules play vs how they read and I didn't relish resetting a scenario.  About ten turns and ten minutes later, the game was over.  I think I was right about the mismatch between rules and scenario.

That said, there were a number of things that I liked better about MoMBat. I much prefer the attrition system and I absolutely don't like the saving throw approach to combat where a unit throws to survive even if it it what Morschauser originally used. Partly that is just my way of thinking, but it is also that the danger to a unit is totally dependent on what it is. For example a cavalry unit is in as much danger from attacking a wagon in the flank as it is from charging a machine gun frontally. It may be more likely to win the combat but the danger is the same. This is a valid design choice since over all the better combat troops will tend to survive and thus win but it's one that doesn't suit my tastes.

Another thing I had trouble with is the comparative deadliness of shooting vs close combat. For example an infantry unit that is in cover has a 1/6 risk of being hit in close combat but a 1/3rd risk if shot at by infantry (5,6 basic +1 because infantry is always halted when firing, -1 for cover). If the shooting unit has an adjacent commander, the odds of a hit go up to 50%, if the target infantry is adjacent to a commander it becomes invulnerable to frontal assault but there is no change to its vulnerability to shooting. Unfortunately for Red, Green figured this out, unfortunately for Green they only figured it out after taking heavy losses trying to creep around and hit red in the flank. The end was a draw with both sides at 50%.

So, it was time to reset and try a different rule set.

My first thought was to go back and try MoMBat but Memoir44 was also an option. Then I remembered that I had been working on something inspired by the Portable Wargame but heavily influenced by Hearts of Tin crossed with the ACW Hex rules I was working on.  I buffed it up a bit (rough draft just posted as a blog entry), relaid the game, adjusting the terrain slightly and brought up reinforcements to make 3 man units and adding 2 platoon commanders fro Green, each with a single free order.

Essentially the game involved rolling for the number of "orders" with each allowing a unit to move, shoot, assault, rally or go into overwatch. Units being assaulted fight back without orders. Regular units can take 3 hits and if receiving more than one can convert the extras for retreats.  

 . The Second or Hats of Tin game: The carnage after the assault. The road is still blocked. 

Green followed the same rough attack plan, fire support from gun and mortar combined with an infantry assault on the flank. Even though the gun could hit from most of the way across the table, the mortar and gun were too light to do more than keep their heads down (occasional hits followed by rallying instead of shooting). Having the mortar fire fire from cover aided by a spotter also tied down the spotter, should have used a commander. The infantry attack was caught in the open as it struggled across the wire and cut to pieces but a second wave made it through and took out the enemy redoubt. At this point the Greens had lost 2 platoon commanders and 3 sections while the Reds had lost 1 infantry section. Since the goal was to get a convoy down the road. Green was still at square one but without any advantage in numbers. The company commander recalled his men and fell back, swearing to concentrate his forces and focus on the objective next time. He might call for some heavier artillery too!

I'll try for a more explicit report on the next test game and then perhaps switch to the RCW using the full table.


  1. Ross Mac,

    You make some excellent and very valid points about some of the compromises that I had to make when 'converting' Morschauser's original rules over to use with a squared grid.

    You might be interested to know that the feedback from other players (Steven Page and David Crook amongst them) is that once the grid gets larger than 8 x 8 there needs to be some adjustments made to the rules. I am therefore looking at a 'Big Battle' version of PW:M that will include:

    1. Unit Attrition (this will be either the use of Morschauser's 'roster' system OR individual figure removal as used in MEMOIR '44 and MOMBAT ... with my preference being for the latter).

    2. Longer weapon ranges and the ability for non-Artillery Units to move and fire (again as in MEMOIR '44 and MOMBAT).

    3. Artillery only being able to fire indirectly if a friendly Unit has LOS to the target.

    I would argue that the current PW:M mechanism for determining the results of Combat are not really a saving throw as the results are going to be negative in some way (i.e. Units are destroyed or forced to retreat).

    I do like the Orders rule that you have used in your HELMETS OF STEEL rules … and may well use something like it for ‘Big battle’ PW:M.

    All the best,


    1. Bob, Its a good illustration of how different approaches work for different people. Re the big battles, I would have thought the rules as is would work better for big battles, I could see using a lot of units on a big grid, probably with small figures and then having no attrition would be fine. It is because I was using so few units that attrition was missed. The shorter ranges and small figures and small terrain would allow for the game to feel like a brigade sized action. Again my problem was that the terrain was so big compared to the table that I wasn't able to get myself to believe that it was anything more than a clash of companies. But I can also see a game with more squares and units with attrition being a more detailed game than a wider canvass. Both attractive ideas. With the single figures, I have been using the memoir trick of having the number of figures = the number of hits for infantry and gun crews, I'll have to use markers on tanks and on my smaller figures which are mounted on bases.

      re close combat, by saving throw I meant that units throw to avoid damage to themselves rather than rolling to inflict damage on the enemy but that is mere perception, changing who rolled would not change my real issue which is that the risk is not related to what the unit is attempting to do. If both sides survived if both made their roll it would help then a strong unit attacking a weak unit would be more likely to survive than a staring unit attacking a strong unit. Its a valid choice as is, just not my preferred approach.

      The PIPS dice are one of several good things to come out of DBA. I have a like/dislike relationship to them but they are one of the simplest ways to add some controlled friction into a game. Oddly enough, I hadn't thought about using the mechanism until you used it in one of the early PW.


  2. Hi Ross,
    What? No Tanks??!!!

    It is very interesting seeing several gamers working over the same kind of rules -- and in my genre for a change!
    What ranges were you thinking of for medium and heavy tank guns?


    1. John,
      I thought about trying to squeeze a Sherman onto the grid, might yet. I don't have any suitable modern tanks close enough in size to work with the big figures.

      Tank Ranges? oops I was actually thinking RCW & what was on the table and hadn't noticed the absence. Tricky when not trying to do relativity and not using actual weapons and ground scale. Perhaps I need to cut the light gun and MG back to perhaps 5 areas, medium to 6, heavy to 7.

      Now that I've added Overwatch at the last minute, I think I might add fire and move back in.