This was a design session on how to do a WW1 skirmish game, focusing mainly delivering a participation game for Jerry Elsmoreâ€™s 50th Birthday con. Iâ€™d already done a first darft of the rules but wanted to talk through some of the principles about what I wanted to achieve.
I found the discussion particularly useful in clarifying my methods for running a participation game at a show. Gone is the idea of having all the action in a static circle of squares that represented all that could be seen (I may do this at CLWG sometime as I still like the idea, although it would be too time-consuming for being run at a show). I did get some ideas for making changes to the terrain though so that it would only become clear when figures entered the square in question.
Also useful was the discussion on how to simulate disorientation and when that might be appropriate. This means that I have some ideas for retaining the confusion that can happen when patrolling at night, especially when shooting starts.
The next version of the game in a complete and playable form will be around at the January meeting and again in February so that it will have had a couple of outings by the time Jerryâ€™s birthday convention comes round. Any volunteers to help run the game on the day will be more than welcome.
In the meantime the draft rules (which are an evolution of Jimâ€™s Starship Solder rules converted to work with 2d6 and have a WW1 flavour) are on the web. http://www.cold-steel.org and there is a fledgling mailing list (using my usual server) at email@example.com (send a blank e-mail with â€˜subscribeâ€™ (no quotes) in the subject line).
Also if anyone has photos (preferably aerial ones) of trenches or shell craters (regardless of period) then I wouldnâ€™t mind if you could send me some scans. I need to make up a stack of terrain cards for the game and one of the things that impressed me at the conference was Jimâ€™s use of laminated card pictures for counters. I reckon that terrain cards made up the same way would look pretty good.
Having cast around for someone to do a plan for Invasion of the West Mukul volunteered, even though he wasnâ€™t able to turn up on Saturday. Mukulâ€™s plan is at the end of this report along with the umpire briefings, but in essence it was for a pre-emptive chemical strike on 1 British Corps near Hanover followed by a mad dash for Antwerp.
On the day Andy Reeve, John Rutherford, Dave Boundy, Terry Martin and Brian Cameron turned up. Andy and John played the Soviets/Warsaw Pact forces with Dave Boundy as their LU. Terry controlled the NATO forces with Brian joining in when he arrived.
The players werenâ€™t entirely happy with the chemical strike but did it anyway. The results were disappointing as the combat capacity of the NATO forces wasnâ€™t degraded terribly as had been hoped, although the civilian casualties were horrendous. (As a game fudge I deemed that the chemical strike would take a step loss when it hit and also inflict a step loss on any units remaining in the area. Fighting in an afflicted zone would be twice as deadly and all combat factors would be reduced to one). The main game effect of the chemicals was to stiffen the resolve of the German territorial forces to fight.
The Warsaw Pact advance hit the slightly softened NATO forces and punched their way past them with a few casualties. NATO correctly guessed the main axis of Warsaw Pact attack and concentrated their air effort, reserves and logs support on the thrust. In a bloody second day the Warsaw Pact air were swept from the sky. At the same time the West German Northern Corps counter-attacked and inflicted a serious stop to the follow-on forces. The forward Soviet thrust bypassed Hanover and almost reached the Ruhr before being annihilated by a British counter-attack heavily supported by aircraft and LSPs. The West Germans died with the Soviet follow-on force in a bitter slogging match.
Down south all was quiet, relatively speaking. The Czechs having been given no orders decided not to play. NATO forces dug in and fortified their positions waiting to see what happened. In the meantime the all the reserve formations were diverted north. The arrival of the Reforger air-deployed division tipped the balance. Although arguably the lack of activity in the South allowed the LSPs that might have been used there to be used in the North. As my mechanism translates LSP use directly into combat step losses this was disastrous as the forces involved very quickly lost all their offensive combat power.
I was reasonably happy with how the mechanisms worked, although I still have one or two reservations. Given that this was the second outing for the game this doesnâ€™t surprise me. The main thing that I got from it was a few ideas on scenario generation. In the post-game discussion it was reckoned that there was some mileage in a political game set in the final throes of the Soviet Union which would provide the background for a game like this.
A Short Victorious War â€“ Forthcoming Game
Given that everyone there seemed keen on this I intend to try and run an invitation game at the June meeting of CLWG, possibly in John Rutherfordâ€™s house. The game will need 15-20 people, which means that I need to go further than CLWG for players. The main teams will be NATO, Warsaw Pact and a few other key states to represent the UN Security Council in a time of crisis. Iâ€™ll also need a few umpires as well.
Each team will have 4-5 members which means I need around 15 players, 3 Liaison Umpires, a military umpire and myself as Game Control.
The background to the game is that the Soviet Union has realised that its collapse is imminent unless it can do something to relieve its economic position. The choices open are either reform, which has a risk of getting out of hand, foreign aid or a relief from the pressures of the Cold War and the level of funding that the Arms Race requires.
NATO This will have representatives from Britain, USA, a European state and one of the peripheral members. Their role will be to try and resolve the tension by bringing the Cold War to an end and negotiating market reforms with the Soviet Union and other WP countries.
Warsaw Pact This will have a Soviet Union, East German, Polish & Czech players. They will be looking for ways to relief the economic pressures that they are under.
UN members To bring some sense to things I want to have a few unaligned states to represent the UN and the peaceful influence that it may have on the events. This is likely to have 5 players.
Umpires Each of the three teams will have an LU umpire to advise and also to relay orders to map control. The game will also use the telephone system for communications between teams (although letters and face to face will also be allowed).
This means I need a total of 17 people to play the game. If you are interested, or know anyone who is then please let me know as soon as possible.
Our RQMS used to tell a story of his worst time on duty was when, in the early 1950s, the Cameronians were taking over a barracks from the Highland Light Infantry (HLI) and he was on the rear party for the HLI. He was assigned to guard the armoury and the Cameronian officer told them that on no account were they to open the armoury for anyone, and if they broke in they were to shoot them.
The officer then proceeded to issue them with several hundred rounds of belted ammo as well as two magazines worth for their sten guns. Our RQMS and his mates thought the officer was a bit touched and stowed the ammo away as soon as he had gone. (NB ammo isn’t usually kept in the armoury with the weapons).
A few hours later, just after midnight and the closure of the pubs/NAAFI, the guard was woken up by someone banging on the door shouting rather vehemently that they wanted to be let in. The Corporal told him to go away. No effect. In fact several more Cameronians turned up and started banging on the door and pleading either to be let in or to have bayonets passed out to them. When this was refused they started to look for other ways in and surrounded the armoury banging on the door and barred windows. The situation was grim and the guard had no way of getting help.
After the banging on the door got a bit more co-ordinated the guard set up a Vickers Medium Machine Gun facing the door and made loud noises about doing this. The Cameronians finally got the hint and left just as the outside component of the guard turned up threatening to shoot them too.
The only Cameronians left now are a TA Company. (No.4 Company 1/52 Lowland Brigade). Rangers is also probably the right name too as they are all very staunch protestants (but not religiously of course). The Cameronians were originally formed to support William of Orange by fighting against the loyal forces of King James VII in Scotland, their first battle was at Dunkeld in 1689.
I promised that I would do a bit on Fighting In Built-Up Areas (FIBUA) because I thought that I would be able to add one or two bits of my experience to the pool. Because of laziness I thought that I would just provide the following extract from an Aide Memoire I acquired whilst an Officer Cadet.
There is much more from where this comes. Also possible is the section on Counter-Revolutionary Warfare (CRW), the chapter on use of artillery and the ever-useful Close Quarters Battle (“Fix Bayonets!”) chapter useful for those awkward occasions when you wake up to find that you’ve accidentally dug-in in the middle of an enemy position.
Chapter 11 – Fighting in Built Up Areas (FIBUA)
Following lessons learnt in the latter part of WWII where many young officers were killed, maimed, or lost the confidence of their men in house to house fighting it was decided that all officers had to be trained in the techniques of surviving FIBUA with their reputations intact. The following points should always be borne firmly in the front of your mind every time you and your men enter a Built Up Area (BUA).
1. Don’t run at a plywood door and then try to open it by giving it a good kick right in the middle. It is highly probable that your foot will go straight through the door. Not only is this uncomfortable it will not inspire confidence in your men. Let your platoon fool do this instead, it will be very good for morale.
2. When someone suggests that you stand atop a ladder while four of your men hold it and run at a first floor window remind them that you cannot adequately control the battle from atop a ladder and that your platoon sergeant would be a better candidate.
3. Don’t go in first, or second, third, fourth or fifth, in fact if possible wait until the building has been declared clear before going anywhere near it. Best of all is to sit a couple of hundred metres back and ask to have the village shelled flat for an hour or so before going in.
4. If you must go into a building avoid using holes anyone else has made – this includes doors and windows, especially doors. Always do it quickly with full auto selected, along with a nervous paranoiac disposition if you can manage it. (It must be stated that this cannot ever be real paranoia because the people in the building will be out to get you.)
5. Avoid windows with wire across them – wire tangles – the less said about this the better.
In the Building
1. Remember to give whoever is in the room you are about to enter the respect they deserve – at least one grenade and the contents of your magazine. This is where plenty of practice at the game “I bet I can empty my magazine faster than you” really pays off.
2. When you’re in a fortified house always remember that your helmet makes your head bigger (or your beret if you’re a Para) and avoid all those beams and ammo-box sangars inside the building. Especially worth remembering if your command post is set up under a table.
3. Whatever you do remember not to brew up with your hexy stove on wooden floorboards! If you need smoke then it’s much more effective to pop a signal grenade.
4. Keep all your smoke grenades inside your jacket, or at least securely taped up with the pins bent. Smoke indoors is an absolute bitch and the little buggers tend to catch on doorways, wire, etc and go off. If they do you need to wear a respirator or get out fast, neither is to be recommended.
5. When the building is safe stay in it, any excuse will do – local defence, protecting a flank, establishing an OP, setting up a Command Post, organising resupply, guarding prisoners, treating the wounded. All good officers should be able to think up something original and appropriate in order to let their men carry on without them. Besides, everyone knows what soldiers think of their officers and they would far rather they weren’t there. If all else fails a simple “Well done Sergeant – Carry on” will do the trick. It’s worked for generations, there is no reason why it should fail now for you. (Possible exception here being lack of intelligence on the part of Paras requiring their officers to actually lead them and thus risk their lives. Not a recommended course of action – but then anyone foolish enough to leave a perfectly serviceable aeroplane when it isn’t on the ground must be rather suspect.)
Leaving the Building
1. Avoid if possible, if not use the back door. This is the only circumstance in which you should lead from the front. Make sure that you have identified some good cover within five metres or so of the door or window you intend to leave from. Once you have get up and run as fast as you can and dive for the cover rolling into it to present the smallest possible target. This will undoubtably have alerted the enemy and any poor sod that follows you will almost certainly get shot at, the more that follow you the higher their chance of being hit. Hence the advisability of leaving first.
2. When making your mad, frantic dash for cover remember that bushes can conceal barbed wire. Also watch out for loose cartridge cases, they tend to be very destabilising on concrete/roads. Going arse over tit will not do your reputation much good.
3. Remember to take all your kit with you, and tie it down so that you don’t lose it on the way out either. It can be rather frustrating to find that you have left your hip-flask behind, and one does not want to have to risk one’s life more than is necessary. If you leave something behind send a soldier back for it – they are expendable, you are not.
1. Don’t do it – unless you’re a few hundred metres back and have access to artillery. If you do then you can have some good fun – especially if you mix White Phosphorous (WP) with delay High Explosive (HE). The WP sets the buildings on fire and the delay either explodes inside them or weakens/collapses drains and cellars. It should be borne in mind that using WP for anti-personnel or incendiary purposes is against the Geneva Convention.
2. If you must be outside get in cover. Nowhere is truly open and if you can’t find cover you’re not scared enough. Puddles always lie in low ground. Gutters provide decent cover if you are being mortared or shelled, but bugger-all if it’s a sniper. Cars are okay, but most high-velocity rounds will go straight through them – although they’ll stop 9mm quite happily (at least on the way out). As high-velocity rounds go there is not much you can hide behind – an old fashioned stone built wall or building is your best bet. If it’s a fifty calibre machine-gun don’t bother hiding, just pray that he’s a lousy shot and none of the rounds come anywhere near you.