Thursday, November 20, 2014

Help, I'm Doing it Wrong!!! A 6mm Modern Teaser


I've had the table set up for a couple weeks now, the forces set, the rules decided on, and was chomping at the bit to get a fight in.  I was quite fortunate to get some time to myself on a 'school night,' and with it I quickly darted upstairs to my toy room.  The sad news is that it didn't work.  Part of it was dissatisfaction with my homegrown rules set, and part of it was a sinking feeling that I hadn't set up a good scenario, or that the scenario didn't suit the rules.  So, what did I do?

Rules: I took Ivan's C2 system from No End In Sight and bolted on World at War's movement and combat.  NEIS' C2 allows a bit of friction: a deck of cards is used to decide which side will activate; on a red card the defender would activate a company, on a black card, the attacker would activate a company.  The activations would be by platoon; so the company commander rolls a D6 to figure out how many activation points he has (actions are simple: move, shoot, or rally), and each platoon can carry out up to two actions per activation.  Each activation roll adds one 'stress' to the company commander; he can activate more than once per turn, but he must roll over the amount of stress he has accumulated, and the activation points available are what he rolled minus the stress.

Example: a black card comes out, so the attacker decides to activate his 1st Tank Company (three platoons of three tanks each, activating by platoon, each platoon can carry out two actions if there are enough points).  A D6 is rolled, and it's a '5,' giving five activation points (AP).  The 1st Platoon uses 1 AP to move and 1 AP to shoot at enemy tanks in a nearby woodline; 2nd Plt uses two AP to move twice, up past 1st Plt's right flank.  Only 1 AP is left, and so 3rd Plt uses it to move up behind 1st Plt.  One 'stress' is placed on the company commander.  Another black card comes out; the player can activate a different company if he chooses, but decides to activate 1st Tank Company again.  A D6 is rolled: this time it needs to be a 2+ (more than the one stress) or the company commander is 'exhausted' and may not activate again for the remainder of this turn.  The D6 roll is another '5,' so the company gets 4 AP (had to subtract the 1 stress).  1st Plt uses 1 AP to fire on the enemy, 2nd Plt uses one to continue its loop around the right flank, and 3rd Plt uses 1 AP to move up next to 1st Plt, and the last (4th) AP to fire at the enemy.  A second 'stress' is placed on the company commander.  Every time a black card comes out, this player can keep trying to activate the same company until it rolls less than or equal to the amount of stress the commander has.

The remainder of the rules are ultra simple: each unit has its own movement rate, anti-armor capability (i.e., a T-72 rolls 4 dice, hitting on 5+, out to 12"), anti-personnel capability (same formula), armor value ('saves' expressed as T-72 rolling four dice, saving on 6), close assault (same formula).  There are also aircraft and anti-aircraft assets, arty, and arty-delivered smoke.  Nice and simple.

Scenario: I took what I believed to be a 'standard' Cold War-type scenario: a 'deep' battlefield to allow defense in depth, the attacker's objective (a crossing over the river, either via an existing bridge or one built by supporting engineer vehicles) at the far end of the table, and the attacker with about a 3-1 material advantage.

No issues, right?  Of course, if you see some, please let me know, as I just have this feeling of dread like I'm not doing it right...  Hold on, don't try to straighten me out yet, let me lay out why I think it didn't work, below.

The table, 4' x 6', attacker will enter the board at left, trying to force a crossing of the river at far right.

The attacker: a battalion of tanks (3 tank platoons, 3 platoon companies), a battalion of APCs (same, but with 27 infantry bases), a company of recon, a platoon of engineers, a battery of artillery, and a couple air defense assets.

The tank battalion.  For my purposes in this game (in the interest of keeping everything simple), a tank was a tank (didn't differentiate between the T-80s, T-55s, and T-62s I had on the table).

In the game all platoons of each company were kept together, which eased activation.  That is, each 9 of those tanks represents a company, and they were geographically next to each other on the table.  Activation made perfect sense.

The Mech battalion.

The infantry, rifles and light AT only.

The recon company, arty battery, and engineer platoon.

Looking from the attacker's baseline.

The bad guys.  A company of tanks, a mechanized company in OT-64s (no AT capability) with mech infantry (light AT only), and a company of 'leg' infantry, with light AT, 82mm mortars, HMGs, and ATGMs.

 The tank company.  Owing to the defense in depth concept, the tank company would be spread across the table, looking to engage the enemy at range, then fall back to secondary/supplementary positions.  But because they were spread all over the table (and the fact they had absolutely miserable activation rolls), their activations didn't really make sense.  For example, one platoon had the enemy in front of them, but the other two didn't; do I activate the company now, knowing only one platoon has something to, but the other two don't, but will receive a stress anyway?  Or do I wait until the other two have something in front of them, knowing the first platoon may well have been overrun without having fired a shot?

So that part didn't work out very well.  I either need to change how I activate, or keep companies together, which is hard to do when you don't have many units for the defender.

Defender's Mech company, recce platoon, arty platoon, and a couple air defense assets.

The 'leg' company, just like the mech infantry companies, except with an ATGM, HMG, and mortar added.  I also have pictured a 'command' stand, but please note that I don't use the command stands in the game; the notion of the company commander is only necessary for the activation roll.

Mech infantry company.

From the defender's baseline.

The attacker's startline, from top to bottom (left to right), 1st Tank Co and 1st Mech Co, 2nd Tank and Mech Companies, and 3rd Tank and Mech Companies, with arty in the center left and recon company in the middle.

The defense: a tank platoon at far left amongst the village, their recce plt in the village at bottom center, another tank platoon in the woods atop the hill at far right, backed up by a mech platoon in the ville right behind them.  There's a tank platoon and a mech platoon, along with the air defense assets are at the center crossroads, and the leg infantry company is dug in behind it, right before the bridge.

Tank platoon on front line at defender's right flank.

Recce plt, front line in center.

Front line on defender's left, tank plt with mech plt behind it.  Again, because of the way the activations occurred, the mobile defense didn't really work...

The cross roads, with tanks in the fore and mech in the rear.  Notice that with the mechs, I've got the infantry out in cover, with their vehicles close enough for a one activation point sprint to them.  In a perfect world, you roll a 6 and all three platoons can spend one point firing and one point getting to the vehicles.  I don't expect 'the perfect world' scenario, of course...

The leg infantry company, dug in behind the crossroads.  I never got even close to this far in the game.  One turn took me a about an hour, following a half hour of set up and pics.

At the bridge we have the last mech company, and the defender's arty is at top right.  I had air defense assets on both sides because I intended on using air support (fixed and rotary), but I didn't get around to it.

Ready for the game to start!

The game starts with a black card, and so the attacker looks to the far left and activates the 1st Tank Company.  They have a great roll (a 5 or 6, can't recall and didn't write it down), and thus are able to move up opposite an enemy tank platoon in the nearby ville.  The vehicles are within Long range of each other, with effective range being 7".  This is a bit of a change to me as I'm so used to playing games in which pretty much all weapons can range the entire table; given that I'm playing a higher 'scale' of game, I like the idea of limited ranges on the table top, it 'feels' right, even if the miniatures themselves are bigger than the ground scale.

First, I apologize, I don't know why the computer turned this photo sideways, and I can't figure out how to rotate it...  In any case, a red card comes out, and so the enemy tank platoon in the village fires at the leading platoon of 1st Tank Company, 'disrupting' it (yellow bead).  The enemy had two activations, using the first to fire and the second to high-tail it to secondary positions (top of photo).

With regards to the rules, this was problematic.  In real life, I'd say the enemy platoon leaving after only one round of fire was probably a bit premature, though, with an entire company across from them, you could argue that maybe it was prudent.  But this was the situation I was referring to: the enemy activated as a company, but only one of its platoons was in a position to do something, so it received both of the company's actions (a terrible roll of '2').  However, due to company activation, there was now a stress on the whole company, meaning the other two platoons would be less likely to activate, and if they did activate, would have less activation points (-1 for the stress).  If I'd kept the company together they would have been able to activate together and probably give a better account of themselves, i.e., two platoons would have activated, both firing on the the attacker's leading tank platoon.

However, if the defender's sole tank company was placed together in this location, I'm sure that I, as the attacker, would have activated a different friendly unit, outmaneuvering the defender's tank company.  Usually, as a solo gamer, I attack the outmaneuvering phenomenon through the use of 'blinds,' but that doesn't seem to lend itself very well to card activation, especially given the fact on-table units can activate multiple times in one turn.  This is due to the fact the defender on blinds will have less cards in the deck and will simply be overwhelmed piecemeal.  The only alternative to this is to give up the traditional '3 to 1' odds in favor of the attacker, and make it a more 'even' game in terms of the number of on-table units.  I believe this is the route I'll have to take, though I dislike the fact this seems to lead to constant 'meeting engagements.'  I must meditate on this.

Another black card and 1st Tank Co goes again, with another great activation roll.  So they unpin their lead platoon and move up, chasing the fleeing enemy tank platoon (top right).  This is followed by the enemy arty battery activating and firing on 1st Tank Co, to no effect.  Another red card comes out and the enemy arty (which, for activation purposes I've combined with their lone recce platoon) tries to activate but fails, and is exhausted.  This means the enemy arty, which fired once, is done for the rest of the turn, and the enemy recon, which is sitting in the center of their front line and hasn't done anything yet, is also done for the turn.  I don't mind living with bad activation rolls, but due to the 3 to 1 attacker ratio I had to make some compromises with how defender units would activate, and it's not working very well.  I didn't want to let the defender arty and recon activate separately (or the three defender tank platoons), as you could end up with defender 'super' platoons activating like crazy (using the same amount of activation points normally given to an entire company).  Again, it seems the only answer is to give the defender more units, thus throwing off the ratio...

A couple black cards in a row, so 1st Mech Co comes on in trail of 1st Tank Co, then catches up to them (enemy tank platoon falling back at top left).

A red card, and the defender tank company rolls terrible, so they're only able to move their already falling back platoon further back, behind the trees and out of LOS.

A black card, and on the far right 3rd Tank Company comes on.  Its 1st Plt comes on and fires at the enemy tank platoon on the far right (sitting in the trees, with two white beads for stress, even though it hasn't done anything), disrupting it.

Another black card and a '6' is rolled for the 3rd Tank Company, which uses its 5 activation points to move two platoon further forward, and its 1st Plt right up to the enemy tank platoon, where it halts and fires, reducing the enemy tank platoon (1st hit pins, 2nd reduces, 3rd knocks out, though the 1st hit can be 'rallied' off).  The 3rd Plt also fires, to no effect.

At this point, the defender is really not in a position to do anything...  It has only a reduced tank platoon and a recon platoon that can't activate in its front line.  So, really we only have attacker units to activate.  And so, in the center, the attacker's 2nd Tank Company comes on.  Two platoon move towards the enemy recon platoon (in the ville at top left), while one platoon heads right to target the enemy tank platoon on the far right (top right).   Two of 2nd Tank Company's platoons fired, to no effect.  The enemy tank company tries to activate but fails its roll and is exhausted.

2nd Tank Co activates again, rolling another '6,' which allows it to move up and smoke the enemy recon platoon in the center (which never activated).

The attacker's recce company comes on with back to back activations, putting two platoons on the left and one on the far right.

On its third activation roll it gets a '6,' which sees its lead platoon move up on the enemy tank platoon at the crossroads (which cannot activate as the company is exhausted).  The recce platoon fires, no effect.

On the right the 3rd Recon Plt rolls up past the reduced enemy tank platoon and confronts the enemy mechanized company supporting it.  Once again I'm in the position of 'do I activate a company even though only one of its platoons is in action, or do I wait?'  At this point I was pretty frustrated; I had spent a half hour with set up (and that was having set up the table a couple weeks ago, so just getting forces photo'ed and put in starting places) and over an hour playing, with the realization that this wasn't doing what I wanted it to do...

At this point I started mailing it in, not sure why I didn't just stop, but not really playing the game either...

I brought the 2nd Mech Co on in the center, but only rolled once for activation vice multiple times.  I'm thinking this might actually be the answer to part of my problems regarding 'feeling right.'  Each company will activate only once, rolling a single D6 for activation points.  So each company will activate once in a range of 1 platoon carrying out one action to all three platoons carrying out two actions each.

Then I brought on the 3rd Mech Co on the far right, one activation only.  I was aggravated enough that I called it at this point without allowing the enemy Mech Company to activate...

From the attacker's table edge, this is what it looked like at the end of Turn 1.  I didn't have the time or inclination to push on with the rules and force mix in their current state.

I've decided to change three things:
1) I've got a deep battlefield, but I need a wider battlefield.
2) I need a force mix less askance, i.e., no more 3 to 1, more like 1.5 to 1.  This is because I don't want to mess around with blinds with these games, I want all the units on the table, in all their glory!
3) I think the way to go is one activation roll per company, not multiple attempts at activation.  It works for me with smaller games, but degenerates into a bit of a muddle with all these units on the table, particularly with the 3-1 ratio.  Perhaps it won't be as big an issue with a 'closer' force ratio, but I still think one activation roll per turn is better in the interest of keeping the turns moving.

Regarding scenarios, I've got books of them from Lock 'N Load's World At War Eiesenbach Gap, Death of First Panzer, and Blood and Bridges.

So, I welcome any insights into modern gaming, comments on my rules, comments on my force mix ideas, etc...  The only thing I'm not interested in is "you should try XXX rules!"  I already know that, if I can't make these rules work, I'm heading to Cold War Commander.



  1. Jack

    Don't know much at all about modern warfare but am interested in Command and Control on a battlefield. Your approach is a bit 'grainy' for my taste but I can see the intent. The following are a few suggestions, which you can take in aggregate or individually, which might help
    1) Activate by company and multiple times with stress all according to your current rules. However additionally permit individual platoons to activate (maybe once per turn, maybe twice?) independently of their company command. This uses up the card but places no stress on the Company commander. The platoon receives an automatic one (perhaps two) activation points and fires, bugs out, panics or whatever. This represents a sort of local initiative but is limited in application and still 'burns' the red or black card - which might have been ideally used to activate a company somewhere else.
    2) Use option 1 above only for NATO. Make the Warsaw Pact activate by company regardless - their command fluidity was, as I understand it, markedly congealed.
    3) Vary the proportions of red and black cards according to the relative sizes of the two forces and the 'competence' of the command. So start with three times as many attacker's cards as defender's (with a 3:1 force ratio) and then 'up' the proportion of the more capable command (NATO presumably).
    4) Designate different cards for different types of activation - court cards are armour, others are everyone else. Or court cards are anything, non-court are anything other than armour (or similar). This ought to force some tricky choices on the player.
    5) As suggestion four above but vary the activation cards according to different doctrines. So the Warsaw Pact cards might be quite regimented - Ace to 4 = Artillery only, 5-10 = Infantry only, court cards = armour only. The NATO cards would be more generic (such as Ace to 10 = anything but armour, Court Cards = anything)
    6) Put a Joker in the pack of cards. When that turns up the turn ends and everything is reset.
    7) Not sure how many cards you're working with or what the composition is but besides 3-6 above it is also worthwhile considering the number of cards. One per company (of the appropriate colour) per side is a starting point but then see 3 above. However whilst maintaining the proportion of red to black you could still reduce the total number of cards. So 18 WP companies are attacking 6 NATO coys. Start with 18 red cards and 6 black. NATO have a competence edge so increase their number of cards by, say, 3. Cards now 18 to 9. But limit the numbers overall so that each card becomes more valuable (because not everything can be activated each turn) so reduce each side by a third. Cards now 12 red and 6 black - NATO retains the possibility of activating every company whilst the WP doesn't . Chuck in a Joker and it becomes a very uncertain turn structure - which is probably a boon to the solo gamer.

    I really think it is worthwhile trying to differentiate the NATO/Warsaw Pact command choices to reflect the fact that they were two different systems with different ways of going about things.

    Anyway that's the first thoughts off the top of my head. See how you feel about them.



  2. Andrew,

    Thanks so much for taking the time to read my ramblings and put together a great response, I really appreciate it. I'm going to take a look at some of your concepts, but I reading your response I realize I didn't give you all the info, and I humbly apologize...

    1) My fights are going to be a modern Imagi-nation, so not NATO vs Warsaw Pact. The opponents will be qualitatively equal (it's a civil war), so no need to model one side's superior C4ISR aspects.

    2) The test game was 'small,' and the fight's I intend to have are going to be 'large.' In this game the defender had an understrength battalion, while the attacker had 2+ battalions. In the 'real' games, there will be a minimum of three battalions per side, with hopefully a regular 5 vs. 3 ratio.

    That's the reason I'm activating by company and keeping everything so simple; I have to as I'll be playing these solo.

    One concrete thing I'm looking at based on your comments: you mentioned the Jokers, which I hadn't taken into account. I don't think I'm going to use them as turn-enders though, I think I'll use them for random events. Now I just need to figure out what those random events should be.

    Thanks for your help, I appreciate it!