Some New Thinking on the WWII Skirmish Rules

We had a chance to play G.A.M.E.R. this weekend.  All the way home from Charlotte I was thinking about the tweaks I want to make.  Today I spent a little time on the computer making those changes.  I wanted to improve the way hand-to-hand combat worked.  I wanted to make a few small changes to the action deck.  I also wanted to put the effects of non-penetrating vehicle hits on the cards.  Finally I wanted to make a better unit roster.

Changes to action deck cards:

You can see three of the four changes to the action deck cards above.  The first is that I labelled the large, medium, and small bursts  to make it easier for players to distinguish them quickly, especially in their first game.  Second, added one more modifier, or column shift, for firing.  That shift is a shift to the right if the leader is not present.  This might be applied if the leader is stunned, is firing his weapon, is dead, or for whatever reason is not directing the fire of his squad.  The third change was to change the labels on the “table” of bubbles on the top of the card.  They had been labelled E, V, and T for expert, veteran, and trained, respectively.  Since units’ and soldiers’ Guts attributes were labelled Elite, Regular, and Green, this created confusion.  Now Guts, Accuracy, and Melee use the same semantic labels:  Elite, Green, and Regular.

Vehicle combat:

I have codified the process for shooting at vehicles:

  1. Flip a card to see if you hit the target vehicle, just like normal small arms fire.
  2. If you hit, flip the NEXT card to determine the location on the vehicle.
  3. Consult the vehicle record sheet to determine the protection value for that part of the target vehicle.
  4. Roll a d10 (or flip a card and look at the d10 toward the top left) and add the attacking weapon’s penetration value.
  5. If this sum is greater than the vehicle’s protection, the hit penetrates.
  6. Flip the NEXT card.  If you see a large explosion, the vehicle is destroyed, the crew is killed, and the other players rejoice.  If you do not see a large explosion, bad things happen (to be defined).  In addition, roll TWO crew casualty dice.  For each hit indicated on the crew casualty die, flip another card, ignoring cover, to determine which crewman was hit and how badly he was hit.
  7. If the hit does not penetrate, apply the results from the hit location card draw to the vehicle as non-penetrating hit damage.  In addition, roll ONE crew casualty die.  or each hit indicated on the crew casualty die, flip another card, ignoring cover, to determine which crewman was hit and how badly he was hit.  This may result in too many crew casualties for non-penetrating hits, so I need to test it out.  The math seems about right, but still want to see how it works on the table.

A crew casualty die looks like this:  0, 1, 1, 1, 2, 2.

Hand to Hand Combat:

Note on the card above that there are the five little bubbles under the cartoony-looking tank.  This is used to determine which target person was hit.  I plan to also use this for hand to hand combat.  Here’s how I think it will work.  Each player flips a card.  The position of the bubble indicates your initial hand to hand value.  In the card above, that would be 5.  Modify this result as follows:

  • -1 if you are suppressed or stunned
  • -1 if you are wounded
  • +1 (for each additional figure, to a max of 3:1) for each extra figure you have fighting a single enemy figure
  • +1 if you are defending some sort of cover
  • + the hand to hand rating of the figure’s weapon.  A pistol or SMG have a positive modifier to hand to hand combat.  A crew served weapon has a negative modifier.

The winner draws a card to determine what type of wound he inflicted.  In addition, the loser is pushed back an inch and the victor has the option of advancing.  In this way, the victor can push his way over a wall, through a door, etc.  If the result is a tie, all figures are pushed back an inch.

I’ve also been considering some sort of roll to close, but instead, I think I’ll let the defenders make a reaction check.  If they pass, they may fire at the oncoming enemy, but they will be stunned in the upcoming melee.

Improvements (hopefully) to the Unit Record:

GAMER is meant to be played at three levels of complexity.  The first two are represented on two unit records shown below.

In the most complex case, each figure has its own attributes, so the card is quite a bit larger.

I actually have a version of this card with the top half upside down so you can print it, cut it out, and fold it in half.  All three cards are 3″x5″ when cut out.  A player would normally command a squad, perhaps more, so he would need two of these little cards.

Chart Card?

Along those same lines, I’ve been see how much information needs to be placed on a chart card.  So far, it’s not much, and it fits on a 3×5 card too.

Extra Dice:

JJ suggested something this weekend, that worked pretty well.  He felt like the attacker didn’t have any advantage.  He suggested that the attacker rolls two activation dice for each of his units.  When a card is drawn that matches either of the numbers, the player gets to decide to use that die and discard the other or discard that die and keep the other.  The decision must be made right then.  This helps ensure that the attacker doesn’t bog down just because of bad luck with the activation deck.  It seemed to work pretty well, and I’m anxious to try it again.  This might be something that applies for the entire game, the first x turns, or until some trigger event occurs during the game.  Still thinking on this one.

Reaction and Opportunity Fire:

I really dislike opportunity fire in games.  It is nearly always abused.  My plan with GAMER was that the player could attempt to interrupt the movement of another unit.  First, the moving unit must move at least half of its allowable move that turn.  Then the reacting player announces that he wishes to conduct reaction fire.  For each figure attempting to react, the player rolls 1d6.  If the result is less than the figure’s reaction number, the figure may fire, but them marks himself as stunned.  This is so that when the figure next activates, he would remove the stun instead of acting, since he essentially took is action early.  Of course figures that are already stunned cannot do this.  The players seemed to think that there needed to be some sort of “wait” or “overwatch” action that a unit could take that would let it fire automatically and essentially pay for the reaction fire in advance rather than in arrears.  This is exactly the kind of thing that gets gamey and annoying that I was trying to avoid, but I’ll ponder it before making a final decision.  I thought what we did worked just fine.

So those are my thoughts for now.  Come by my table at Cold Wars on Sunday morning to see how it plays.

Last Two Games of Saturday at JJ Con

Another view of the table
Another view of the table

Our last two games of the night were X-Wing Fighter (Fantasy Flight Games) and Red Dragon Inn (Slugfest Games).  The X-Wing game pitted three X-Wing fighters and a Hawk against five Tie Fighters and an Improved Tie Fighter.  This was the first time that most of the guys had played the game.  It is quite simple and quite fun.

Red Six to Red Leader. I'm going in!
Red Six to Red Leader. I'm going in!

Early in the game, Luke was shot down, but by the end, three Tie Fighters were knocked out, and the rebels were in good position to finish them off.

An X-Wing Fighter squares off with two Tie Fighters
An X-Wing Fighter squares off with two Tie Fighters
The fighting devolves into a fur ball; Luke dies.
The fighting devolves into a fur ball; Luke dies.

The final game was a drunken brawl at the Red Dragon Inn.  This is a great little game.  It is easy to learn and very fun.  The setup is that a party of adventurers has returned from a dungeon crawl and plans to relax in the inn for the evening.  The objective is to outlast your buddies through a series of drinking contests, brawls, and gambling events.

An evening of drinking, gambling, and fighting at the Red Dragon Inn
An evening of drinking, gambling, and fighting at the Red Dragon Inn

Sunday morning we met for breakfast at Cracker Barrel then played a game of Nuclear War, the 1970’s card game from Flying Buffalo.  Nick ended up with a lot of population and outlasted both JJ (who was wiped out before the war even started), Dave, and me.  Despite a valiant attempt at a final retaliation, I was unable to take him down with me.

It was a good weekend of gaming.  We’re a little older now and unable to game all night, be we crammed a lot of games into the weekend: two chariot races, a fantasy battle, a WWII skirmish, a Napoleonic battle, an X-Wing space battle, a brawl at the Red Dragon Inn, and a nuclear war.  Amongst all that, Dave and I got in a five mile run, worked on scenarios and rules on the long car rides, and made it home without falling asleep at the wheel.  I’d call that a success.


Fate of Battle Game at JJ Con

Russian infantry defending Brienne
Russian infantry defending Brienne

Our next game at JJ Con was a play test of another scenario for our upcoming 1814 scenario book.  This one was the battle of Brienne.  The game was fun.  JJ’s priest came to see what we were up to, and we got him to run a Russian division for an hour or so.  He launched his cavalry against Eric’s French columns.  He got lucky and smashed a column before it formed square, then broke through and took out a battery of artillery.  You can see the smashed French column in the picture below.

In general the guys caught onto the rules quickly, but got a little confused with the night effects.  It was a real scrum; however, there was no way the French were going to be able to accomplish their main objective.  We adjusted the victory conditions.

That battles was a real scrum.  I took over for JJ’s priest and used my dragoons to spar with and delay the French.  In the meantime, Eric’s light cavalry just about destroyed my only infantry, which withdrew to the town to await the French onslaught.  When the smoke cleared, the French had begun to push me out of the town despite the arrival of fresh reinforcements.

Close up of some troops
Close up of some troops

The game was a marginal French victory.  They did not capture the town that was their objective by the time the game ended (midnight game time, and pretty close to that real time).  They did, however, kill seven of our units, losing only one battery along the way.  Both sides had many units that were badly shot up, but only those eight units were actually destroyed.  By the scenario victory conditions, it was a marginal French victory.

I think this was another successful game, but I was getting very tired of game mastering by this point of the weekend, and I was not up to par as a GM.  As the GM, you feel responsible for everyone having a good time.  There were lots of questions about the rules and scenario, and I could feel the game going South a couple of times, but in the end, I think everyone had a good time.

Fallschirmjäger Raid at JJ Con

Nick advancing through the woods.
Nick advancing through the woods.

Our first game Saturday morning was a WWII game with the card-based rules I’ve been developing, called GAMER. (That stands for the five attributes of a figure in the rules:  guts, accuracy, melee, endurance, and reaction.)  As a play test for a game I plan to run at Cold Wars in March.  It involved German Fallschirmjägers launching a raid to kill a bunch of allied generals who were meeting for a planning conference.  The generals were being guarded by two squads of Home Guard.

Who is that in the woods?
Who is that in the woods? JJ's wife came by to see what we were up to.
One view of the opening situation.
One view of the opening situation.

The Home guard positioned one squad near the far hedge and in the woods near the blue house.  The generals were in the second floor playing canasta — I mean planning for Normandy.  The second squad of Home Guard positioned one team in the building with the generals and another team in the plowed field in the foreground.

Another view.
Another view.

The Germans had three squads of Fallschirmjägers.  Two squads (Jimmy and Nick) massed on the allied left and attacked toward the Home Guardsmen in the plowed field.  The third squad (JJ) advanced through the rocks on the left of the picture above.

Eric's Home Guard defending a wall against the onslaught of the Fallschirmjägers.
Eric's Home Guard defending a wall against the onslaught of the Fallschirmjägers.
Jim's Fallschirmjägers moving up cautiously through rocks.
Jim's Fallschirmjägers moving up cautiously through the rocks.

This was the first time I’ve run these rules outside a small inner circle.  I was gratified by how well they worked.  There remain a number of things I need to tweak.  For instance, I’m still unhappy with the way hand-to-hand combat works.  (During the 8 hour drive home today, Dave came up with an idea I plan to try soon.)

After Jimmy was wiped out, Nick's Fallschirmjägers rushed into hand-to-hand combat with the stunned Home Guard.

After firing more rounds than an episode of The A-Team, the Fallschirmjägers finally pinned down the British team in the field.  By this time, the Brits had just about wiped out Jimmy’s squad, but the remnants charged the Brits who were pinned won by fire from Nick’s MG-42.  In furious hand-to-hand combat, the Brits were eliminated, and the few remaining Fallschirmjägers raced towed the house and their objective.

Nick's final rush to the house.
Nick's final rush to the house.

Jim was advancing steadily against Dave on the British right, managing to incapacitate the Bren gunner on the second floor.  Nick rushed forward with half his squad to get into the house.  The Brits and Fallschirmjägers exchanged a bunch of grenades over the hedge, then Nick rushed through the gap.  He lost most of his men to withering Enfield fire from the second floor, but got three or four men to the building.  Monty lay dead.  A few more grenades cleared a path into the house, but then General Eisenhower started picking off Fallschirmjägers on the porch with his M1911.  At this point, JJ’s remaining Fallschirmjägers decided to withdraw from the field, leaving a four Brits and three generals in the building.

The game was a British victory and a very positive play test for the rules.

Fantasy Battle at JJ Con

A wide shot of the battle

Our second game for the weekend was a fantasy battle using the under-development Bear Yourselves Valiantly rules.  I ran this game, because Eric expressed interest in trying out the rules.  This was a refight of a Napoleonic battle (sort of), but we used 3000 points per side instead of the actual Napoleonic order of battle.

Another view, early in the game.

Eric, Nick, and Jimmy had the goblins and their human allies.  JJ, Dave, and I were the elves.  The goblins were supposed to be defending, but Jimmy decided to advance, which force Nick to move forward as well.  My human force, facing Nick’s goblins never really got much going.  We mixed it up quite a bit, but I didn’t really make much progress toward my objective.

Getting ready to start

There was a fair amount of kvetching and grousing about the ratings and statistics on the troops, but the forces, by points, were pretty equal.  Eric’s goblins mixed it up with JJ’s elves, and the fighting was hot and heavy.  Eric was doing a pretty good job of holding off JJ, but then some of Dave’s elves joined the fight, and Eric was hard pressed.

The fight over one of the Elf towns

The problem with fantasy is that everyone has their own idea of the capabilities of wood elves versus goblins versus undead versus humans versus…  Bear Yourselves Valiantly allows players to use a point system to build out their forces, providing a great deal of flexibility for folks to make the armies match their preconceived notions.  Unfortunately in these demonstration games, where we hand folks armies built according to OUR notions, people tend to confuse the rules with the scenario with the army statistics.

Jimmy's wizard uses a wall of fire to protect himself from Dave's elves

I think the guys had a good time.