Wednesday, November 22, 2017

World War II Rules Mission Statement

This could be the most important blog post you read all week!

Of late, I've had a little bit of a World War II problem.  Nothing seems to scratch the itch for what I'm looking for and, if I'm quite honest with myself, I'm not sure I even know.  I would take some rules off the shelf, read them, and then end up putting them back, no further along than when I had started with this search. 

I remembered the same turmoil I had gone through with  Horse & Musket era rules awhile back, and Brian C's sage advice still echoes in my head:

"Find your mission statement" he said "and everything will fall into place."

Brian was urging me to consider what I wanted out of my games to find a set of Horse and Musket rules that I could call my own.  Given the immense size of the H&M era, this was no easy task.  With the reflection I did for that project and the results I came up with,  I think that block was definitely checked and I've never really looked back on that era.  True, I'll still play another set of Horse & Musket rules, but I've happily found "my" set of rules that I enjoy playing.

Moving onto the World War II scene the rules themselves that are out there vary so significantly from one another in terms of mechanics, scale and scope that it's hard to even find a place to start your analysis.  Comparing "Black Powder" to "Rank & File" to "Johnny Reb III" is very easy to do because a game of each will look virtually identical and many of the mechanics are similar.  Comparing a game of "Flames of War" to "Battlefront WWII" to "Megablitz" is comparing apples, to oranges, to fruit trucks, and that's just for starters.  Think of the scale you like.  There's games out there where your stand is a team, a squad, a platoon, and even a company (nothing wrong with any of that).

Then there is the question of single stand units versus 6 stand units.  Both represent the same thing and both may arrive to the same conclusion after a battle, but what level of detail do you want?  A Command Decision platoon is 1 stand and its fire is represented by one D10 die roll.  A Flames of War platoon is represented by 4 to 6 to possibly 9 stands and its fire is represented by 8 to 18 D6's being rolled depending on the status of the platoon.  See what I mean?

So with me vacillating between different rules sets and honestly sitting in my gaming area staring at a table, I decided that action was needed.

The rules out there on the market are so wildly varied, diverse, and interesting, I needed a more holistic approach.  One that gave me a good place to start my research from.  I needed to figure out just what I wanted to get out of my games, just like the Horse & Musket analysis, so with that I am prepared to brief and defend my World War II Rules Mission Statement:

My games must enable me to solve tactical problems by commanding units that close with and destroy the enemy by fire, shock, and maneuver; that can integrate all fire support assets into combined arms operations, and can rapidly be brought to a conclusion within 4 hours.

Does any of that sound familiar to you?  US Veterans may take comfort in the fact that I've taken some of the words straight from the missions of the Infantry, Armor, and Field Artillery branches of the US Army.  This is exactly what you're trying to do on the tabletop.  You'll notice there is nothing in here about feel, or flavor, or spices or seasoning.  Nothing about friction or pips or ground scale or rulers.  That's because those, be them outstanding features of rules design, are enhancements to games, not the purpose of the games themselves.  The purpose of any game is to close with and destroy the enemy.  We do this with rulers and dice.  That is the most basic point of a World War II (read that as modern?) game.

So now that I've a mission statement how do I go about achieving this mission statement?  I touched upon 4 key tenets of the mission statement that serve as parameters for analysis:

Rules must be set squarely at the tactical level of war.  Company or Battalion command.

Unit capabilities must be evocative of their historical counterparts.  Infantry and armor must be able to close with and destroy the enemy or engage and defeat him from standoff distances.

Rules need to have the ability to incorporate the full range of fire support capabilities that were historically available (mortars, artillery, rockets, naval gunfire, tactical air support).

A reasonable game time should not exceed 4 hours (scaleable for larger games).

The search is on for rules that meet (or dont meet) these parameters and everything is on the table.  From One Hour Wargames to WRG.  No level of complication is too much or too little.


  1. I also have many WW2 sets of rules. Plus many scales of miniatures. I have found a good platoon level game in Battlegroup. It lets me use combined arms and work out a plan. You can also win a game without having to kill every thing in your opponents force. Look for Acceptable Casualties on YouTube for some good batreps and rules discussions.
    As for rules for my micro armour, I'm still looking.

    1. Cheers Neil and thanks for commenting. I absolutely LOVE the Battlegroup Rules. I own Barbarossa, Kursk, Overlord, and FotR. I will never turn down a good game of Battlegroup.
      The only issue I have is that it is, as you stated, a platoon game. I'm wanting a level slightly higher for this search.

      As for MicroArmor? Well I just bought Dunn Kempf so I'm going back really far for that search!

  2. I agree, it's a difficult one, and some great points there.

    Not to complicate matters, but I had been looking at the old board game 'Fire Team' with regard to how units were activated. Not saying that it's directly relevant (it's cold war after all) - but with activation in that instance, a Soviet 'chit pull' can mean that multiple units/platoons have to carry out the same order due to doctrine, while US commanders can get smaller units to do more flexible things - designed with training/flexibility/thinking for oneself in mind.
    For a Battalion/Company level game, perhaps that's the crux of the matter?

    I also like the Field of Battle rulesets (incl Division level WWII) which use the card deck as 'diviner of activity' (and chaos). The spread and flexibility of the cards depends on the command ability of the commander.

    In essence, I guess I'm saying that firepower/movement/artillery is like for like across WWII rules; it's the activation and turn sequence that is perhaps the crux of the matter.

    1. Darren - I still need to look at the Fireteam set. You've mentioned them quite a bit over the years so they're something I want to look at more closely.
      I think your question is a very philosophical one based on game design. Frankly that might be cause for an entirely different blog post! Right now I need to get this Company/Battalion level thing sorted out. I felt that including C2 into the mix would further complicate the search, given the immense and diverse (read that as amazing) variety out there now.

      I get what you're saying. fire and movement are universal.

    2. Let me see what I can find sample or two - in order to give you a summary of the rules, and send over - the game might be ridiculously expensive on ebay.

      Also though - a new version is coming out. See here:

  3. ...yes, and I guess I just made things more difficult, as opposed to actually providing any form of gameable solution LOL

    1. Hardly - this is exactly the kind of feedback I was looking for!

  4. Just getting into Blitzkrieg Commander. It's pretty good thus far and I'm pleased with it. Spearhead is very different but simply fantastic. Not suitable for solo play though.

    1. Hey Ski - BKC is a good, fun, and very clean game to play. It's on my list for sure to try out with this project. Thanks for commenting!

  5. All sets I've heard about - there are too TOO many.

    I agree with all Steve's points, except that I need something in the 1 hour range [if a small solo game]. I also am really into being forced to make simple, clear-cut decisions between two very different courses of action. In other words, I want to have to make choices between obvious decisions [not hidden in the murk of modifiers and special rules] that clearly could make or break the game for me.

    I think that has been my big gripe about FoW. There's so much RULES that I spend my time trying to remember or understand them. I don't think commanders did that.

    1. Cheers, Alex. For you it's all about the decision making and I see your point. You want to have to make the tough choices that your staff present to you. I get that and in our recent game I saw that scenario present itself a few times:

      Occupy the left-most ridge aside the highway ? (Dave made that key terrain)
      Defend at the bottom of the hill or on the top?
      Where to deploy my AT guns to cover the best approach/most likely approach to the hill?

      Well done sir!

      So you'll laugh but when I read the mission statement, Flames of War stuck out to me as something that would, initially at least, deliver on those 4 parameters. (being objective here).

  6. Like the mission statement Steve, but not sure you will find all those tasking verbs in the appropriate doctrine :-)

    1. Haha true enough, Paul. Let me break out my FM
      100-5 "Operations Smartbook!"

      Amazing how clear and concise those mission statements are though.

  7. Completely off topic - but It's just occurred to me that your horse and musket mission statement was entirely fulfilled for me with the Field of Battle Rules - I wanted something that gave me the same results as I would read in a historical account.

    I've been reading Hayes McCoy's account of the Battle of Aughrim again, and I see myself placing rules explanations on the back of events...
    - St Ruth is killed while leading the cavalry across the ridge (rolls a 1 on the d20 for the leadership card)
    - Sarsfield remains inactive with the cavalry reserve (although very Black Powderish - he actually rolls sucessive low rolls on a move card and can't commit to the fray)
    - Battalions cluster in the morass during the attack (they go 'out of command ' after being pushed back in melee and during firing)

    So the Mission Statement definitely works.
    Ascribing it to eh WWII mission statement, maybe a starting point is to read some of available German accounts of the Eastern Front and ask 'are my rules reflecting that'. e.g.
    - The infantry counter-attack took back their original position (we couldn't get enough fresh forces into the trenches etc)
    - Our armour was blunted en masse due to infantry concentrations in prepared positions etc. (melee vs tanks for infantry which stay put)

    1. Darren,
      I'm glad to hear that. Honestly, I wrote those tenets up to guide my search for "my" Horse & Musket rules. Not really what I think are the definitive characteristics, but rather, what I need or must get out of my games. They've worked for me ever since and I have not had these problems I'm having with WWII with any of my Horse and Musket era games.

      I love your suggestion about starting with reading material. That's exactly where I'm headed to be honest. Von Mellenthin's Panzer Battles would probably be an excellent place to start! (Or maybe I've just been itching to read it again!)

  8. Steve,

    I hear ya man, and though I love 5Core, I’ve always got my eye open for something different. You’d convinced me to try Battlegroup, but I can no longer find them in PDF and I refuse to pay $80 to get what I need for Overlord...

    I have been looking at IABSM again; hadn’t played in a few years, but I simplified the shooting/morale mechanics and the boy and I just had a go. Lots of delicious frustration due to the C2 mechanisms, but lots of fun, working on the batrep right now.


    1. Cheers Jack. Battlegroup are the BEST "platoon level" rules out there. But for bigger battles there's something missing from them. I'm not sure if figure-counting is my thing when I want to be a company or battalion commander. Nothing against battlegroup at all, in fact I'm a huge fan and I've bought most of the supplements, just I'm not sure if I'm playing the Company Commander I want to fiddle with activating individual fireteams.

      IABSM are hugely popular. Here's a thought (and I've tried this and it was outstanding) - try playing a game of Flames of War using the IABSM platoon activation cards.

      When a platoon is activated, it rallies, moves, shoots, assaults. The see saw nature of the cards makes the usual FOW grind a hell of alot more interesting.

      I tried a 750 point, roughly, game of FoW with Eastern Front forces and had a blast. Arty off-table as it should be! :)

      Looking forward to your BATREP. Also - keep an eye on your email too. Sending you something.