Monday, January 27, 2014

COMBAT TEAM! Or how to break a wargame.

So I am continuing on with playtesting and writing of my "Combat Team!" rules, loosely based off EPIC: Armageddon.  So far, so good.  I had a few questions come up recently that I was able to solve with some reading and some rounds of play.

First - should Armor stands and infantry stands have Rates of Fire (multiple dice) when shooting?
This was solved after literally 2 short engagements.  This is overkill in a BIG way.  Not only could a company of tanks sit back and shoot enemy infantry to death in cover, but the better tank stands annihilated everything in their path.  It wasn't a satisfying result.  

Back to single-shot firing, but the entire unit still fires at once.  Yes, you still get your buckets of dice (actually 5 or 6).

Second - should infantry stands have multiple hits during play?

This is a tough one that I have not resolved yet.  This slows play down somewhat because infantry stands most likely survive a round of close combat and if they are on the losing side, they will break off and withdraw.  That is a realistic result, however.  Most infantry units breaking off an attack do so because of the intensity of the fire, casualties, and will to survive.  Up until this came around, one close combat round was enough to attrit a company or kill enough stands that it was non-mission capable and would most likely fail its morale check after it reached breakpoint.

This 2 hit rule makes infantry very powerful.  Here's an example of play with the 2 hit rule in effect:

I played a short game of Combat Team! this morning with a company of British Paras (5 stands plus a 57mm AT gun) defending a hedge-row line against 2 full strength German SS Companies (10 stands of infantry). (regulars though, not elite).  The German companies, as a result of shrewd British orders, overwatch fire, successive German assaults, and good rolling were almost totally wiped out.  Granted the British were in cover, the Germans were not.  Also the British were on overwatch, the Germans were on Close Assault orders.  But is this a realistic result?  Good military planning says you should have about 3:1 odds in favor of the attacker in a close assault.  

The Germans had no Artillery or heavy weapons with them (besides the "support weapon" dice roll each infantry stand has)

The Germans were able to score hits (using the 2 hit infantry stand rule) on each British stand.  Had this been the "old way" the British stands taking hits would have been eliminated if they failed their cover save.  (4+ for hedgerow)

I am going to reluctantly keep the 2 stand rule for now.  Granted, the "hits" an infantry formation takes have no effect on morale.  Which bugs me but it screws up the numbers.  So only removal of stands counts towards breakpoint, and not "hits."

I also am going to test out a new order - SUPPRESS.  Units can attempt to suppress enemy stands both armor and infantry to soften them up for an assault.  I think this would relieve some pressure on the attacking stands but to suppress a unit, you have to actively shoot at it with the intent of suppressing it.  This is a HUGE departure from most "modern" (20th century and beyond) wargaming rules where suppression is a "result" from a die roll that's "not bad" but not good enough to kill a stand.

I am thinking about SUPPRESS allowing you to shoot like on OVERWATCH or ATTACK BY FIRE where you don't move but you get a +1 to hit modifier to your shooting.  For each hit you score, enemy stands must pass a morale check or they have to sit in place until the end of THEIR next turn.  Suppression has no impact on casualties, breakpoint or morale checks.

Well that's all for now.  Going to have a go with more Germans at that hedgerow and see if I can break those Paras!  Let's hope so - the future of the rules depend on it!


  1. Rather than two hits, maybe give infantry an intrinsic save based on ability which is then improved by cover?

    That way you have slightly less powerful infantry, slightly less record-keeping, but have also modelled the fact that even if the table is flat, the world isn't, and good infantry can find a scrap of cover anywhere.

    1. AH,
      So give infantry a save no matter what, and the save gets better in cover? That's not a bad idea. I wonder how that will affect gameplay. What would you recommend for their intrinsic save to be? Maybe 5+ or 4+ for each hit?

  2. The shoot to kill/shoot to suppress option features in the Battlegroup rules too.

    1. Ken,
      That bodes well for me. Especially considering BG is so popular and I haven't seen it or played it yet!

      The idea that you can actively attempt to suppress the enemy as opposed to suppression being an automatic result is not present in many wargames.

      This was an answer to a significantly smaller unit composition than Epic, where a company has 14 stands! This game works at a similar scale to Battlefront: WWII where a stand is a "group" of a larger platoon. So 2 stands of infantry represent 1 infantry platoon in "real life" or 2 to 3 vehicles. It works out to an infantry Company having about 5 to 8 stands and that's a nice mix for my purposes.

      It also ensures the game doesn't take too long.

  3. I like it as a game mechanic, but i was wondering whether it reflects actual practice. Are/ were troops trained this way or do they just blaze away and hope for the best? What is the actual difference? I have trouble envisioning it.

    1. Ken,
      It's not something infantrymen specifically train to do. It's more of a field expedient action. The only force in the US Army that specifically trains to "suppress" is the Artillery. Suppress is one of the 3 outcomes of fires (Destroy, Neutralize, Suppress - all outcomes have a specific type of ammunition and amount of ammunition to be used in fire-missions).
      Infantry use the "concept" of suppression in Battle Drill #1 but infantrymen don't select an option to suppress versus kill during combat. Your goal is to kill but you attempt to suppress with a high volume of fire while your maneuver element moves to flank an enemy position. At least that's how we train.

      The concept fits in the game in situations when infantry are faced with an armor threat and they have little to no AT capabilities. so they can pour on fire with the faint hopes of suppressing the vehicle.

      same goes for infantry prior to attacking an objective. Multiple infantry units can suppress while other infantry units move to close assault. This is also why the activation system and winning iniative is so important in the game. It also adds to the excitement.

    2. Ken,
      I stand corrected (it's been a long time since I was a cadet :)

      check out the chapter called "battle drills" look at Battle Drill 1A Squad Attack.

  4. Soldiers receiving fire take up nearest positions that afford protection from enemy fire (cover) and
    observation (concealment).
    b. The fire team in contact immediately returns heavy volume of suppressive fire in the direction of the

    STEP 4. Attack.
    If the fire team in contact can suppress the enemy, the squad leader determines if the fire team not in
    contact can maneuver. He makes the following assessment:
    l Location of enemy position(s) and obstacles.
    l Size of enemy force engaging the squad. (The number of enemy automatic weapons, the presence
    of any vehicles, and the employment of indirect fires are indicators of enemy strength.)
    l Vulnerable flank.
    l Covered and concealed flanking route to the enemy position.
    a. If the answer is YES, the squad leader maneuvers the fire team in the assault:
    (1) The squad leader directs the fire team in contact to support the movement of the other fire team.
    He then leads or directs the assaulting fire team leader to maneuver his fire team along a route that
    places the fire team in a position to assault the enemy. (The assaulting fire team must pick up and
    maintain fire superiority throughout the assault. Handover of responsibility for direct fires from the
    supporting fire team to the assaulting fire team is critical.)