Friday, January 3, 2014

Popular Board Wargames as Miniature Games

This morning I was thinking about "Team Yankee." Not just the book but the ever-popular board hex wargame from GDW and its tremendous potential as a miniature wargame rules set.  These days, people are turned off by "combat results tables" but simple CRTs might lend themselves to quick and tidy gaming all the same.

Then I started thinking about "Squad Leader in Miniature" and some of the trouble I had when I just sat down with some minis and the "supplement" and thought I would start playing straight-away.  Not the case.  The same would hold true for Panzer-Blitz or Panzer Leader, or Arab Israeli Wars.

Here are my thoughts on using these great and classic wargames as miniature rules sets:

For the most part, they are painstakingly researched and written by wargaming giants like Jim Dunnigan, Frank Chadwick, and John Hill, so you know they've collectively done their homework on these sets.  In most cases they explain their methodology for morale, weapons penetration and effects, terrain, line of sight (so important in board-to-table wargaming) and the like.

Ground scale is already done for you.  Just find out what a "hex" equals and find a way to equate it to inches (or cm's).  For games where a stand represents a platoon, this is usually easily accomplished.

Wargaming these games on the tabletop eliminates some of the frustrating questions I had when gaming on a board with the rules.  The opportunity fire rules and Line of Sight in Arab Israeli Wars is a case in point.  When you can visualize in 3D, you can answer some of the rules questions easier so it eliminates the use of the LOS table and some ambiguity.

You've got some work to do.  I tried playing Squad Leader in Miniature (SLIM) a few weeks ago and it was a disaster because I had not done adequate preparation prior to play.  Remember your stands don't have data on them unless you've committed yourself to a certain rules set.  In this case, I had no idea what different squad values were in Squad Leader so I was digging through my pile of cardboard pieces looking for an engineer squad (8-3-8 by the way, in case you were wondering.  Firepower 8, Range 3, Morale 8).  I also lost my quick reference sheet so I had to improvise and use one taken online.  Since our printer is kaput, I had to use my teeny, tiny little tablet so scroll around on.  Which was okay, but paper copy would have been more desirable.

Unit values and special equipment.  Squad leader units carry panzerfausts, company mortars, Light Machine Guns, and satchel charges.  It's not easy to articulate which squad is carrying what unless you've got miniatures to properly display this.  My solution - which requires an small amount of work on your part, is to create a unit statistics sheets like in the Flames of War Armory or GHQ data lines from the equipment pages of their rules book.  You can get as creative as you want in making them so in the end you have a visual aid that will help in game play by speeding it up.  Eventually you have the values memorized but for returning to these game sets, a QRS and Data Sheet are vital.

Using the Old Game Chips.  Squad leader wants you to use the Fire For Effect counter and the Spotting Round counter, and all that sort of stuff that mark some administrative things going on on the battlefield.  This is okay as the chits usually fit onto the stands nicely but what if you're using 6mm troops?  You may have to create your own special-stands that represent these things like equipment breakdown, spotting rounds, etc.  Not an impossible (or even unpleasant) task, but lazy gamers like me will just use the chits from the game.

Anyways those are my thoughts.  I really am jonesing to play Squad Leader as it was one of my all-time favorite games.  My 15mm troops would really be perfect to play it so I'll have to do some work on creating a QRS and a unit data sheet.  Naturally I'll make this all available upon request!


  1. I once thought of morphing Squad Leader into a miniatures game - even had some preliminary rules worked out - but not actually having a copy of the game (going by memory) rather put a crimp in that plan.

    The first and only test game did have some promise, though: a platoon sized Soviet attack (3 10-man squads plus platoon HQ) upon a small farm held by a squad with I think an MMG. Probably translating a 'unit' based system into individual figures wasn't a good plan though. At any rate the Soviets took the farm at about 50% casualties, or not far short, the dozen or so German defenders reduced by a similar ratio, or a shade more, before giving up the place.

    I would do it differently now, of course, and I think I would stay close to the original: 3 or 4-man stands. I'm going back 30 years, but from memory the Soviets were 4-4-7 (inf) and 6-2-7 (assault engineer); German 4-6-7 and 8-3-8; American 6-6-6, and I think 8-4-7. Germans and Soviets got extra LMGs; US 'BAR' was integral to the stand.

    You could take the stand size of 30mmx30mm as your 'hex size' when working out a table ground scale, which would imply a 6'x4' table would approximate 60x40 hexes. If you're using 20mm figures, buildings will be a bit of a problem, being many times the size of a stand.

    I have to admit, even on this small beginning, I find the idea intriguing and tempting!

  2. Ion,
    Well said. In my thinking, for Squad Leader the number of figures could be whatever you'd like as the base itself is representative of the squad. Check out the Yahoo Group "Squad Leader in Miniature." You can also find a copy of their rules (incomplete, in my humble opinion) on the site (a convenient link for you on the side column of my blog)
    I remember the grit and realism of Squad Leader where I first learned the adage "if you can be seen, you can be hit, if you can be hit, you can be killed."
    I learned the efficacy of taking a covered and concealed route to the objective, and that aggressive tactics pay off most of the time. To date, it has always been one of the most fun and realistic wargames I have ever played.
    Making it into a miniatures game shouldn't be too difficult.
    If you check out that yahoo group (and also SquadLeaderpreASL) you can get entire digital copies of the rule book for free which will help greatly.

    I think giving the squads their normal SL rating (4-6-7, etc) would be appropriate. That said, if they're carrying an LMG or satchel, you could annotate that in some sort of squad tracking sheet or in the "notes" section of a data line (think the armory in flames of war).

    I was thinking about a squad data line with a large box for "portage" items so you could be 1 LMG, 1 Satchel, and 1 bazooka inside the box on the sheet and that would be "first squad equipment."

    The part about buildings raises an interesting point. Most of my 15mm buildings would easily fit 2 to 3 or 4 stands in them. Squad leader really only had a few boards with buildings that huge on them. Most buildings were even smaller than the size of a hex. This is a fascinating problem! I would like to do some calculations on board size, movement, and scale in general.

    In most cases I will be using 15mm WWII figures however I have the 20mm IMEX Korean War troops who I would like to base 3 per base and play some large scale Korean War battles. (think the original "Hedgehog of Piepsk" scenario in Squad Leader, except on rugged mountainous terrain and with Americans instead of Germans).

    Squad Leader will prove the most difficult game to "reinvent" because of the smaller size of combat that is modeled. Arab Israeli Wars, Panzerblitz, PanzerLeader and the like should be easier.

    Stay tuned!

  3. I shall indeed stay tuned! Thanks for the heads-up in re 'SL in Mini'. I did wonder if perhaps the add-ons - LMG, satchel charges, hand-held anti-tank - might be depicted by smaller one- or two-figure stands with the appropriate appurtenances. These could be attached to the accompamying squad by being in contact with it.

    It has been a long time, and I have no recollection of the stacking conventions of SL. I seem to recall that LMGs and the like were stacked with squad stands, but whether squads could be stacked and how many - no idea. At that, I can't remember whether a squad represented the 8-12-man group that the Brits would call a section, or subdivisions of a section. That is - does about 3 squads comprise a platoon, or something more like half a dozen or so?

    Although the idea was kinda small scale, I always felt that the scenarios actually represented larger actions than they looked.

    At the moment I play Panzer Marsch and (when I get the chance) Command Decision. From the point of view of scale, SL seems to lie somewhere between.


    1. Ion,
      It would certainly make the game much more visually appealing if there were individual satchel charges, LMG and the like. With the bases touching you would know what the squad was "stacked" with. That's an ingenious idea.

      The single chit in SL is a rifle squad or section i believe. I think it would be 3 or 4 to a platoon. There was a gray area in that you never quite knew which squads belonged to which platoon. A scenario might say "A Company, 1st Battalion, 77th Infantry Regiment of the 52nd Infantry Division" and you might be given 12 Squads along with 2 or 3 officer and senior NCO chits. So I think you are "gaming" Company Level actions (remember, command in western armies is always 2 levels down so a Company Commander maneuvers squads). Battalion Commanders maneuver platoons etc.

      I have heard great things about Panzer Marsch and I need to look them up. I own Command Decision but have not been able to slog through the rules completely yet, even though they get rave reviews from just about everyone. (and I love games where a stand = a platoon).

      I am tinkering with Team Yankee right now and coming up with a nice QRS that has all the equipment on it so I could game an entire scenario from 1 sheet.

      Next up tonight, I'll start a Squad Leader Equipment Data sheet for miniatures. More to follow.

      I am really enjoying this conversation! It's inspiring to get the creative juices flowing again!


  4. Very interested in seeing how this develops. I'm looking at converting the scenarios from the old West End Games 'Fire Team' to a conversion of the the WWII rules 'Battlegroup Panzergrenadier' for cold war.

    (Have wanted to play these scenarios in miniature for years).

    Actually, now you've mentioned it, I must dig out my battered copy of Team Yankee too.

    1. DdG,
      Thank you for commenting. I am happy and excited to report that my replay of Team Yankee in miniature was a smashing success. I played the second scenario from the game and it was a close American victory thanks to some lucky shots from a T-72 platoon.

      All that's required for Team Yankee to play as a miniatures game is to double the range and movement in inches (and you will need miniatures, of course). I used 15mm modern miniatures and had loads of fun.

      The rules very much lend themselves to miniatures gaming. My advice though is to read through the small rulebook thoroughly as there were some rules I missed and didn't catch until after I was done reading through (this was after my game, of course).

      The Squad Leader project is going to take a little while longer to get the QRS and unit statistics correct.

  5. Very glad to hear that the combat ratios work and that you've done this. I've wondered about using GDW/SPI style CRTs for years with miniatures but kept thinking that 'no one else does it this way for miniatures so there must be a reason', which is a perfectly ridiculous reason not to try it.

    Reading through the Team Yankee game again does make me want to try 1/300 or even 20mm scale on larger table.

    Should also add that I have the old (battered) copies of GDW's 'Sands of War' and its expansion set which use the same(ish) rules and have some excellent scenarios from Gulf War I.

    I'll seriously look at this in the next few weeks and post some pics on my blog (even though I have around 30 other games that I want to play right now LOL).

    Squad leader on the table always defeated me through trying to approximate the stacking in a comparable way - though I'm sure there are solutions based on what can be fired through friendly stands and/or the scale of the battlefield. Have you looked at 'Fireball Forward'. I haven't played these yet, but they are written by ASL fans.

    Thanks again for the inspiration.

    1. I was very satisfied playing Team Yankee with miniatures. I would very much like to purchase Sands of War also so I can use my 15mm Arab Israeli Miniatures as well. Luckily Board Game Geek has the values photographed so I can use them.
      I hear you about the other games too. I'm working on an Epic Armageddon Conversion to WWII right now that is taking up all of my hobby time (which isn't much at all lately).

      I owe you some pictures of a Team Yankee miniatures game which I will post soon. If you like, I will send you my tables for Team Yankee which has all of the critical rules and charts on 1 page and I added different morale rules to the game.

      Squad Leader stacking is a tougher nut to crack. I imagine for the miniatures version, you could have bases touching which would indicate stacking. So an attack against 1 stand, is an attack against all stands that are touching the base.

      I have found such disatisfaction in modern miniatures rules sets - so much so that it's caused me to take fresh looks at popular tactical wargaming rules.

      I have been meaning to take a look at Fireball Forward.

    2. Thanks for that. I would greatly appreciate a look at the tables you used for TY ( Also looking forward to your pictures.

      You must have started something, since I've been looking at the Langen Gap scenario this evening (in my tattered rulebook, in my tattered Team Yankee box - I think everyone's copy is worse for wear LOL) and making calculations re. my Russian 1/300 vehicles. :)

    3. Oh yes...and if you want any information from the Sands of War sets, let me know.

    4. Duc,
      I will email you the tables later on this evening, East Coast US time as soon as I get home. It will be everything you need including vehicle statistics to convert Team Yankee to miniatures.

      I think Yankee at 1/300 will probably be even better than 1/100 how I've been playing it. I should probably break out my micro-armour as well :)

      Glad to hear you've dusted off your copy! I will let you know about Sands of War. I am very much wanting to play some Arab Israeli games from the "first battle" series but using minis. I will most certainly hit you up for info :)

  6. Sorry to raise this from the past, but I just read it. SLIM is a great idea and I have mined the group for their resources but never played. The issue of stacking seems to be solvable by making "stands" less than the size of the "hex" so you can shove at least three in there. I have thought about using Two Hour Wargames (THW) rules to plat it and they now have the sci-fi 5150: Brigade Commander for larger scale actions. These should be able to be used across genre. I have also noodled around with ideas of using higher strategic level games as a sort of Campaign generator. My initial thoughts are to use Blitzkrieg to fight a pseudo "Great Patriotic War". Following wit interest.

    1. Sean,
      No problem and glad you are participating in the discussion. The only problem with SLIM is the lack of data sheets. You need a good QRF that has the unit data values on it so you're not constantly having to reference a playing piece from the board game!

      For stacking here's what I was thinking - have units touching each other's bases. That makes them all susceptible to fire just like in the game. If the bases are touching they are stacked together - if they're not touching they're separate.
      I need to check out the 2 Hour Wargames.