Tuesday, January 14, 2014

COMBAT TEAM! Rules Battle Report #1 (or my first blogged WWII EPIC game)

I played a game of "Combat Team!" my homegrown World War II miniatures rules this morning.  The scenario was a variety of the "typical delaying action" from the PanzerBlitz scenario pack (the board game) except with a few less units on the table.  Objectives for the Russians were to kill German stands and same for the Germans.  (maybe the more important objective for Gerry was to conserve fighting stands)

My key observations and the battle's AAR are the subject of this post.  Game started out with the Soviets winning the "tactical" roll on turn one which is worth noting because the Soviet tactical initiative bonus is +2 whereas the Germans are +4 on the D6.  Soviets choose a "double move" order(so far the orders are the SAME as Epic:Armageddon until I change them) and move a T34 battalion double and attempt to engage the German infantry in the village.  The Soviet To Hit AP value is "5+" and the Sovs make a double move so they get a -1 To Hit on their attack.  Germans in cover get a -1 To Hit so Ivan can't hit them this turn!
Starting dispositions.  You cant see them but there's 9 T-34s representing 2 small tank battalion groupings in the lower right of the table.  The Germans have small Company Kampfgruppen of Armor, AT guns, and infantry in the covered positions.

Soviets move more cautiously.

Dug in Panther platoon knocks out a T34 platoon with a "sustained fire" order
 My strike values for the game changed a little from the last time.  I lowered the T-34's strike value to "6" instead of "7" but kept the Armor the same at "14" this was great as the German because that damned sloped armor on the 34 would probably bounce 1 in 4 or 5 shots off.

Turn 2 - more T34s would be knocked out by AT gun and tank fire.  You can see the Panther platoon in hull-down on the left.  The Germans dug-in in the village would eventually be pushed out.
 Since this was a very mobile battle, I did not give the Russians any artillery support (and the scenario card didn't list them as having any).  I did, however give the Germans a little more artillery with a full Wespe Battery and a Hummel section.  (total 6 Barrage Points in Epic - AP hits on 3 or 4+ and AT hits on 4+).  The Artillery is your new best friend if you're outnumbered in this game!!!!!!!  The Germans had achieved minor victory conditions by turn 4 thanks to the Artillery evening the score.

Close Assault Time!  Tank Riders charge straight into the Germans.  They move up half tracks for the firefight value.  The Soviets will use the firefight value of their T34s in support.  The Germans lose the combat and the survivors are pushed back, leaving the village in Ivan's hands.
Game went very well to this point.  I am still tinkering with morale rules and initiative.  I decided NOT to use blast markers or the suppression concepts from Epic Armageddon as I am not playing a 1:1 game.  This is a platoon-based game so you can play large battles, therefore like some other popular games, you will take morale checks when casualties mount in your individual formations.  The quality of your troops dictates when you will take those morale checks.

There is a 5cm consolidation move just like in Epic after close combat.  You can see the German platoon on the right with the red bead.  They lost the close combat and are immediately put in a "suppressed" stage.  This is not suppression from fire, but rather apprehension to carry out additional orders due to losses, fatigue and demoralization.  For lack of a better term, I'm calling them suppressed for now...

They pass a "marshal" order and lose the suppression marker.

Game so far.  Ivan stalled after this point and kept failing initiative rolls.  The large tank grouping just sat there turn after turn, with me not wanting to move the infantry out of the village yet.
 I really liked how the close combat went.  It was crisp and there is no question as to the result.  Halftracks lending fire support are great too especially when there are swarms of infantry pouring into your position.  The Germans pulled back with what they had left.  I allowed them, after passing a marshal order to join another kampfgruppe.

Finally passing an initiative test, the SU76s move out!  Trucks are following close behind.

meanwhile, the remaining T34s of the other battalion charge down the road.  They passed their morale test after losing 2 other platoons. 
A sustained fire order from the Panzer IV and the PAK40 in the treeline make mincemeat of the SU's (defense value 10, whereas the Panzer IV and PAK 40 have a strike value of "7")

Battle unfolds!

This Stug III platoon would go on to miss the T34s almost the rest of the game.  Luckily for them, Ivan's crappy initiative rolling stops the tank battalion dead in its tracks.  Orders mixups?  Commander killed?  I think there are many things you can attribute to these "fog of war" initiative rolls.  and i like it!  In real war, units get held up for all kinds of reasons.  True story - On a Battery consolidation move from Taji, Iraq to Talil, Iraq, my MLRS battery minus the  M270 launchers, sat on the highway for almost an hour because the trailer carrying our CONEX shipping container broke its axle, forcing a huge recovery operation in the middle of "rush hour" traffic.  We had to move the CONEX from 1 trailer to another because it was carrying essential cargo and needed to accompany us, and then we had to somehow move a the heavy trailer with a broken axle to an American base so it could be eventually fixed and recovered.  You could say that my Battery during that mission, kept failing its roll to move out!  We reached Talil, Iraq by 6pm that evening, almost 4 hours behind schedule!
Ivan is pretty conservative at this point, not wanting the Germans to win and also not wanting to lose any more infantry stands, especially the guys mounted in defenseless trucks.  The Russians probably should have dismounted and attempted a leg advance across the open field where the SUs died.

Tank battalion stalled by bad dice rolling!

Ivan advances across an open field in front of a Panzer IV platoon and a PAK 40 platoon!  and the FO is in the woodline as well.  

Meanwhile the Russian infantry emerges from teh village to assault the woods to their front.  The PAK 40 platoon gets some hits, kills a unit forcing a morale check.  They fail and the rest of the infantry battalion stalls out!

Battalion on the Soviet right finally moves out.

heavy close combat on the last turn sees the Germans winning thanks to their firefight values.  The Soviets lose 3 infantry units from the close combat and pull back.  The German kampfgruppe is annihilated but with the next turn, the remaining German armor can pull out in relative safety.

scratch 1 Stug III platoon on the last turn!  The Soviets go for broke to win the game.

This cat lives to fight again.  The blue bead is just so I know who's already been activated.

Soviet infantry isn't going anywhere this game!

leftover infantry from the last close assault.  they are licking their wounds.

Gerry's had enough and pulling out!

final dispositions.  The Russians managed to secure a minor victory on the last turn thanks to German casualties.  If you're outnumbered you really have to fight hard and move your troops around or you're toast.  Sitting in place is NOT recommended if you can avoid it!
So far, so good. I am very happy playing my World War II version of EPIC (Combat Team).  The anti armor values and strike values of the guns is solid and the system (the combat orders you give your troops) is a very, very neat addition.  You have more flexibility than ever before in carrying out orders (moving, shooting, and assaulting) thanks to the Epic styled orders system.  I will make a few tweaks but overall am very happy.

Still wrestling with the idea of giving units on "Sustained Fire" or "Overwatch" a Rate of Fire (how many shots they can make) of 2 but I wonder what that would do to the game itself.  A tank company of 3 to 5 stands would have a tremendous amount of firepower and could hold up an entire brigade of tanks if they roll well enough.  If that's the case, I could mitigate the shots with forcing Overwatch engagements to fire single die rolls at a time, rather than "buckets of dice" as I'm currently playing.

So here's how my own concept of how Suppression works in :Combat Team!".  Your troops have a quality or training level that affords you certain casualties you can take before you must test to see if your troops will continue or will stall out.  Once you take casualties equal to what your level says you can take (IE Conscripts lose roughly 30% of a formation, Regulars over 50%, and Crack test at 75% etc) you must pass a morale check.  This check is based on your morale level.  If you pass it, you can proceed with no modifiers or penalties.  If you fail, your unit is, in a sense, neutralized and must remain in its place until it passes a "marshal" order (rallies).  Units given a marshal order, may move but can only move OR fire, and roll to rally.  If they fail the initiative roll, they stay in place.

Now, once they've taken casualties up to their morale level, all ADDITIONAL casualties affect their future initiative rolls.  So a Regular German Combat Team that has 6 stands loses 3 (50%) and passes a MC.  From now on, each additional casualty is a negative modifier on its future tactical initiative rolls.  (each combat team must pass an initiative roll before it can carry out an order.  if it fails, it stays in place but may shoot with a -1 modifier just like in Epic.  Germans pass on a 2+ on a 1D6.  The Russians pass on a 4+ etc).  In the example, if the German combat team was to take an additional casualty, it would now receive a -1 to its tactical initiative roll, representing its troops' apprehension and fear in carrying out more orders due to casualties and fatigue.

So that's taken me some time to get that right but with some more testing I think it can work well.  There are a few more items I'm considering adding.

One is giving infantry a range roll for integral mortars and support weapons (this is in addition to their firefight capabilities, infantry would have the ability to make AP (anti personnel) rolls out to ranges of maybe 20 or 25 cms).

Another is making the barrage points more generous for mortars and artillery.

Next up I need to finalize my morale, artillery, and TOE values for units.  This should make future games even fast.  (by the way, playing with about 9 T34 stands, 9 infantry stands, artillery and AT guns on each side plays super, super fast and I think that's due to the orders system and the ability to make double and triple moves).

If anyone is interested in play-testing or trying the rules out, let me know and I will send you the values.  The values, or at least the strike values of the guns and defense values for the tanks, are based off of the math from Charles Grant's "Battle" values.  i am continuing to tweak these values and make adjustments for playability's sake but so far this has turned out to be a real winner  in my humble opinion.  I am going to continue to play with these rules and refine them until I am satisfied that I can write up a version to post online for everyone.

Also - very interested in developing these in "moderns" as well, where there is no doubt in my mind of a Rate of Fire 2 for modern MBT platoons!



  1. I think the suppression system is one of the best things about Epic, representing troops under fire quite elegantly. I'm not sure if you should change that, but I understand your desire to reduce bookkeeping/counter clutter in large games. Have you tried Battlegroup Kursk? I think it uses a lot of the same rules concepts as Epic does, and has a very similar feel to it..

  2. Thanks for commenting, Mikko. I couldn't agree more that the blast marker suppression system is one of epic's strongest features. Problem is, the scale represented is such that units will only have about 3 to 6 or 7 stands so entire companies will be suppressed in 2 turns of contact. Epic infantry companies have 12 to 14 stands so its more conducive to individual vehicle suppression.

    1. Could you reduce the size of the burst circle. I am with Mikko, one of the attractive things about Epic is the elegant representation of suppression. but if reducing the template size doesn't really fit with you, I think your alternative is good one that I have played with something similar before and find it very attractive..

    2. I think what Steven means is that since his companies have less stands, the suppression system as it is does not scale well. Companies become too easy to pin down and break. If this is correct, maybe tweak the amount of suppression markers a company has to accumulate for a certain malus? Compare to the Space marine rules where you need two markers for each negative modifier..

    3. Mikko,
      You are correct. An American Infantry Company is 4 stands. In Epic Armageddon an Infantry Company is 14 stands so much more conducive to blast markers. I took them out until I can come up with a comparable system. Right now, it's all based on casualties as opposed to amounts of hits.

      I do like the idea that there's only 1 blast marker per 2 or even more hits (based on morale - morale would determine how many hits you absorb prior to getting a blast marker?).

      It's something to consider.

    4. Shaun,
      I'm currently playing with 1 1/4" wide stands for Infantry Platoons or Squads. (I prefer them representing platoons but the game can be adjusted to 1:1 quite easily) in which case a blast marker size would have to almost double.

    5. OK, I get it now. I have not played EPIC for a very long time. not sure if even two markets will work with the small unit sizes, but as you say, worthy of further thought. I quite like your alternative anyway!

  3. Very good report Steven. I especially like the fact that you have gamed your own rules set and put it online.

    Nice pic's as well!

    1. Thanks Paul. I based the rules off of the popular EPIC: Armageddon from GW's now-defunct Specialist Games. It's a great system actually with orders, initiative and fog of war. I like how fast it plays and when using the strike values and defense values from "battle" the game is, in my opinion, much more realistic.

  4. Very very cool. Great looking game and nice looking kit on display there mate

    1. Thanks, Al. The models are mostly zvezda and battlefront 15 with the troops a mix of old glory 15 and battlefront.