Squad Leader perfectly articulated the US Army's infantry rifle platoon and squad battle drills to me , and taught me skills that would later be used on the battlefield in Iraq. It's true and I can reference it in my journal from my first tour as a Rifle Platoon Leader in Iraq in 2003-2004.
Here are some basic tenets of combat that Squad Leader helped
- The fireteam or squad that makes contact, returns a high volume of fire while the team not in direct contact bounds, flanks, and assaults the enemy. (Squad Leader prep fire phase)
- If you can be seen, you can be hit. If you can be hit, you can be killed. (Squad Leader defensive fire!)
- Risk is part of the job. No risk can be mitigated to the point where you are not taking a risk. (think of the advance phase and that leader, the only guy you have left on the table who can do anything, moves up 1 hex to throw a satchel charge into a room or fire at the rear deck of a Panzer IV. It's the last turn of the game.)
- Things really do break down and at the most inconvenient times, and in the "real Army" it happens much more frequently than rolling "Box Cars." (Squad Leader's brilliant "breakdown roll" occurring when you roll 2 sixes.) Once upon a time, I was leading a convoy of vehicles in heavy fog on a very long road march from Balad to a small base outside of Nasiriyah. As convoy commander, I was in charge of all of the vehicles from our Battery, and that morning when I woke up, I must have rolled double sixes because my radio would constantly shut itself off. Yes, my state of the art, digital SINCGARS radio would constantly need to be turned off and turned back on just so I could send 1 quick message before it f***ing died again. So we used motorola "walkie talkies" and I communicated with the vehicle directly behind me, who would send messages to the entire convoy. (There was no time to switch radios and hey, the radio worked during the pre combat inspections we did. We just had no idea it stopped working immediately after.) We also had a trailer literally break an axle and it had to be towed to the nearest US Forward Operating Base. So imagine that, a recovery operation occurring during the middle of a large movement. The brilliance of John Hill's work is apparent in this mercurial equipment breakdown roll.
Mr Hill has been criticized for Squad Leader's lack of a "fog of war" mechanism in that troops do exactly what you want but I will tell you that you'll be hard-pressed to find a better game that portrays infantry combat and is so rich in detail and texture while maintaining its simplicity.
Rest in Peace, Mr Hill. And thank you. Your work helped shape this officer's impressions of the battlefield. I hope that when it's my time (whenever it may be) I'm sure they'll have a copy of Squad Leader at Fiddler's Green.