I can remember the glorious battles of "the old days" (circa 1994 to 1996...lol) when my airfix and esci DAK troops faced off against my Revell US GIs. Granted, they were in winter dress but who cared at the time? They had M1 Garand Rifles, Thompson SMGs, and .30 Cal MGs and squared off against some pretty serious looking German troopers with tons of firepower. In my engagements they would battle for mountain pass objectives, strongpoints, and any other equally exciting goal I could dream up. After playing a few games of "EPIC: Space Marine" with a friend, I went home with my tail between my legs (playing Space Marine against a Chaos Space Marine Army) each time but received further inspiration for my toy soldier battles.
My rules were a simple combination of fire and movement, with rifle-armed soldiers firing a 1D6 and hitting on a 5+. Your LMGs rolled 2 dice. Cover reduced your hit chances to a 6. Rifle and LMG ranges were an easy 45cm and each trooper moved 15cm. Artillery and mortars fired with the classic GW "Blast Template" and attacked everything underneath with 1D6, with higher calibers getting better potential for a hit. Armor got saving throws and when I played "Squad Leader" I introduced defensive fire rules (bloody! you can basically shoot at anything that moved in front of you).
I played out an "Omaha Beach" scenario on my bed with 1/32 scale CTS and Airfix toy soldiers with telling results. (don't you love how a made bed looks like Omaha beach? The row of pillows at the end of the bed where the blankets cover is the raised bluff where the "bad guys" are entrenched.) The US won but at such a high cost they would have been pushed off the objective with a squad of Polish "guest workers."
That being said, many of us long for "that rules set" that out-does all the others. A single set that we "feel" answers all our questions and replicates combat adequately. That feeling is based on an intangible, philosophical set of perceptions of what we think combat is like (or ought to be like). Our perceptions are based off our earliest experiences, our reading and research, and the experience and opinons of others, we socialize with. We "grow up" in our hobby, trying out different rules sets until we find one we like. We shell out our hard-earned cash and order rules set after rules set in the search for a "holy grail" of combat rules that does nothing more than replicate fire and movement on a battlefield. We search for the best possible model that [we feel] accurately depicts the problem of a projectile hitting its target, and the effects of the projectile on that target. Before you know it, you have a 3 foot stack of wargame rules next to your table and still - NO ANSWERS.
I would like to introduce a concept I like to call "Rules Shock." The glorious times we live in afford us the opportunity to share ideas and purchase widgets on a scale never before seen in history. I would argue that our hobby, the miniature and board wargamers of the world, have benefited from the internet and a global marketplace much more than most hobbies, with better access to goods, products, miniatures and most importantly, ideas. Hell you can actually watch a US Army firefight with the Taliban from the comfort of your living room or office on YouTube, effectively bringing the world of combat to your home.
The only problem I can fathom now with all of this unprecedented "access" is a phenomenon that your workplace or profession might also be langouring under - information overload. There is too much data out there and the emerging professions in the world are centered around analysis and people who can give you that clarity through the murk. It's no different with wargaming.
In my search for the perfect rule set, I spent hundreds of dollars for rules sets, all of them great in their own ways, but none of them delivering that which I needed - clarity into the world of battle and the modeling of a combat situation or process. All of my rules sets are different, yet all of them are for the most part the same. You model a battle across a ground and time scale, you model the probability of your weapons hitting a target, and the effects of the weapons on the target. In most cases, you also "model" the effects of the weapons on your toy soldiers which is something we call "morale."
By now you're rolling your eyes but hear me out - the point's coming I promise.
Since our philosophies and ideas are shaped by our experiences, we're looking for a gaming experience that satisfies the expectations of those experiences. My childhood and teenage years were filled with toy soldier and miniatures battles and the history of warfare. I read everything I could get my hands on related to ground combat. When I became an officer in the US Army, my experiences were shaped and molded by training, time around Soldiers and eventually real combat in a shooting war. All of these experiences shaped and molded what I "thought" combat should "feel" like on the tabletop. I still bought the rules sets but there was always something missing and I could never explain what it was. Playing all kinds of different rules sets was and is still great. It's alot of fun, but what the heck am looking for? Then it hit me.
The satisfaction I felt as a child playing with toy soldiers was what I was after and there was a dissatisfaction with almost all of the rules out there because of my own expectations and perceptions. As a child, I longed to be around the big guns, the rifles, the vehicles and the battles. When I grew up, I wrote a letter to my mother from Iraq about how sick and God-damned tired I was of hearing these stupid trucks and tracked vehicles start outside every day and how I just wanted to wear a shirt and pair of mesh shorts around for a day and not shave for a week or two. New experiences shaping my perceptions.
Rules shock with wargaming rules clouded my vision. I played or bought one rules set to try it out. Then another, and another. Some were fun, some were not so fun. Some were difficult to fathom for me. In the end, I was looking to replicate the feelings I had as a child when playing with toy soldiers. I dont think there's a rules set out there that can not deliver that for you, but for those like me who cant seem to find "it," here is a kind suggestion with our restless brains in mind:
Charles Grant's "Battle"
I received Battle in the mail last night, and read almost the entire thing by the time I went to bed, even with periodic and frequent interruptions from my wife, asking "how can you be reading and listening to me at the same time?"
Charles Grant's wonderful book breaks down wargaming into what its components truly are - models of a process. He offers simple and refreshing explanations into his methodology for determining armor values in WWII tanks, as well as the potential "strike values" for anti tank fire. The best part is all of it translates into a D6 or 2D6 roll which for me, harkens back to my days with the ESCI DAK troops fighting to hold the mountain pass for Rommel. He also gives a great explanations for movement scale. Like it or hate it, at least there is some mathematical basis for the rationale. In "Battle" you move, then you shoot. As simple as that.
I'm not saying "Battle" is the best thing out there. I still want to play my Blitzkrieg Commander or GHQ or Flames of War from time to time, but what I'm really looking for is the satisfaction I got when I dared to recreate a battle on the tabletop (or floor, or bed or coffee table) as a youngster. Battle seems to deliver on that promise, something that all of the myriad of rules written out there have not been able to do in their entirety. I will play a few games and see what I can do, perhaps even expand on the initial vehicle offerings from Grant's book.
Maybe I'll even write up a quick sample of those D6 rules I played as a kid.