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.