Friday, December 11, 2015

Neil Thomas "Wargaming: An Introduction" World War II EPIC FIGHT!

Got in a quick Neil Thomas World War II game before work recently and found a little bit of time to blog about it.  The following is an epic clash between two World War II heavyweights using a rules set that I seriously underestimated!  These rules come from his "Wargaming: An Introduction" book.

The forces should look familiar because I've been using them in a similar scenario over and over again, trying various rules sets that I like and trying to find things that I dislike.  I am finding as I get older that I dislike 2 things:  bullsh*t and gimmicky rules features...

This scenario was beefed up a little to also include an under strength company of Soviet T-34/76 and a small platoon of Panther tanks in addition to the infantry.  According to Neil Thomas (NT), units of 8 troops are squads but I kind of changed that around so a stand was more or less equal to a squad, thus changing the figure scale a little and making the game much "bigger" in terms of units involved.  It actually worked pretty well.  Stands were eliminated when they lost all their figures.

In the case of my 15mm basing scheme that was either 3 troops for LMG equipped units or 5 troops for rifle sections.  The Soviets were much different with 4 troops per stand and a healthy mix of Submachine gun armed squads in there for good measure.

Small Company of T-34s racing to close with the Germans

Soviet infantry horde moving up.  Red dice are casualties.
 Red Army's mission is to seize the collective farm (again! - Mein Gott how are those buildings still standing??).  This time they have 2 large infantry groups to accomplish this, attacking from 2 separate directions.

Germans entrenched in the rubble

Soviet tanks take up firing positions and pour fire into the infantry in their foxholes.  I really, really love how anti-infantry fire is covered from tanks!  NT has done a great job here.
 The Soviet armor was careful not to approach the German positions too closely, and good thing for it, too.  The German leadership stands all had Panzerfausts or Panzerschreck sections and boy are they deadly.  Also it's worth mentioning that the anti-infantry fire is really something else here.  You get a 10 HE (high explosive) dice to fire at infantry stands, all hitting on a 6.  Then you get to roll saves.  My infantry took a beating, but the fire was not enough to get them out of the fight.

Urrah!  Urrah!  Urrah!  Soviets crossing open ground to quickly close with the fascist vipers!

Meanwhile German panthers probe ahead looking for Ivan's infantry.  
 Mr Thomas has also done a commendable job working combined arms into the game in a simple and elegant way.  Infantry closing with your armor in close combat roll 1D6 per figure.  Any roll of a "6" knocks out the tank!  Watch out!  Infantry have been given the dues they rightly deserve in this rules set.

Panther on the prowl.  In NT's WWII game, tanks are powerful, but they don't control the board.  And don't go anywhere without infantry support!
 The Soviets moved as fast as their commissars and officers could urge them, taking sporadic bursts from the German HMGs are long range.  This had a good effect taking some units out of the fight prior to the battle really starting in earnest.

Soviet infantry approach the farm complex

Meanwhile the Germans in the cornfield start to take a beating as the Soviet infantry appear on their left.  They move a squad over to refuse the flank but unless they get some help, this flank is going to fold!
 The infantry fire mechanisms are nice, too.  I experimented with rolling just 1D6 per squad, and calling it a "LMG" squad or a "Rifle" squad but that's not as much fun so contrary to my earlier opinions, I based the firing rolls physically off what figures were in the stands.  It's a little more work, but satisfying none-the-less.

You fire and your To-Hit is based on the enemy's cover.  He gets to save from your fire.  The beginning of his next turn, if he took casualties, he rolls a save and this determines his morale state.
I'm still a little unclear how units recover from that status unless they are shot at again.  So, potentially, you could render a unit pinned or neutralized (my terminology, not NT's) and he doesn't get to attempt to recover until he's shot at again?  I might be doing that incorrectly.

here comes Ivan!  blut und schweiß!
 Now seems like a good time to cover the close combat rules, which were a little confusing until I reread them carefully.  Close combat is based on figure count and the current morale state of the unit. Your current morale state translates into a combat factor that is further used to calculate a final score.  The highest score wins the melee.

So NT has, in effect, given you a tool to effectively suppress the enemy prior to assaulting.  You need to force a morale check and cause some casualties prior to your assault or the enemy will be able to fight you at full strength.  This is absolutely the right way to go about things and many rules sets play this the same way; rewarding attackers for suppressing the enemy prior to the assault.  This is the first rules set I've played that truly gets this concept right.

T-34s pour fire into the Germans!

meanwhile the big cats creep up the flank, taking out Russian squads as they come on.
 The Russians sense the time is right and go in for the kill!  They surge a platoon of T-34s right up into the German positions, careful not to contact anyone, and move more T-34s closer to expand the breach.  Their infantry is not far behind and I'm instantly seeing the benefit of tank-riders with SMGs now!  It's important to remember those Russians have no infantry support in the cornfield with them, and the German leadership have hand-held AT weapons...

Leutnant Stahl ordering the Panzerfaust team to engage the hostile tanks!
 The Germans in the cornfield go for broke and maneuver against the enemy armor, seeing this as their last chance to defend the objective and cause casualties.  The panzerschreck fire is deadly and KO's 2x T-34s.  Meanwhile another squad assaults a T-34 in the cornfield and knocks him out.  Along the road, a German squad breaks from cover and does the same, killing him, too.  The Russian company is reduced to

Soviet infantry occupy the farm complex across from the large building, keeping pace with the tanks to their right.  Meanwhile an AT gun to their rear is helping keep those German heads down.

Situation at the farm!

The Soviets win their first close combat of the day and pour forward, reaching the cornfield.

Soviet platoon leader is urging his men forward!

On the road, the Soviets follow their tanks into the breach!

Soviet HMG supporting the advance.

Desperate German AT measures - the gamble pays off!

German counter attack in the cornfield!  They KO 2 Soviet T-34s!

meanwhile the Soviets reach the building and enter close combat with the German squads inside.  The HMG is knocked out as a consequence of their kamaraden being knocked out.

Ivan making a move against the next objective!

The German platoon on the right not doing quite as bad.  They are in a good position to counter attack.

The Panthers gave a disappointing performance this game.

German landers holding on by their fingernails.

Carnage!  Perfect for a short afternoon game!
Final Thoughts: Congratulations if you made it this far!  What a great game.  I know there were a couple things that I did not do right, but these rules were full of surprises once I finally sat down to play them (I've had this book for awhile now).  I know that Neil Thomas (NT) has taken some criticism for his rules sets but overall, I really like them.  All of the ones I've played, with the exception of the WWII era "One Hour Wargame" rules, which I really feel are better for Horse and Musket, and ancients.

In these rules, you maximize play time and minimize thumbing through rules. Always a plus for folks who like "2 brain cell" rules.  Once I get a few more British units painted up, I will give his Napoleonics rules a go again.  And remember my first preference - no bullsh*t and no gimmicks!

I do think I should have played with the "recommended" number of units per side as this game had both sides with overwhelming resources.  NT's force suggestions have lists you can build with usually about 4 to 8 infantry squads or units on a side, about 3 to 4 tanks, and some supporting arms.  In this game, I used large scale TOEs with team-sized bases pretending to be squads.  Still though, a very fun game and these rules handled the extra forces with ease.

Here are some tactical recommendations to make your attacks or defenses go a little easier if you're playing these rules:

Suppress the enemy!  Shoot at him with HE fire and force casualties and subsequent morale checks.  Also, don't assault an enemy who is "fresh" ie no casualties or morale changes.

If you have tanks, you can use them as mobile fire support but dont get too close to the infantry!  They'll make you wish you hadn't!  NT gives his infantry much staying power and while they can't reach out and kill you, they can assault you if you're at 10cm's or less.  So be careful.  The Soviets lost 4 tanks in 1 turn.
These rules get the Sound Officers Call 5 Star Rating (whatever that means) and this blogger's seal of approval.


  1. Fantastic post Steven. I must look at these rules again. I did try them for an ACW game a while back - must take another look.

    I agree with you - rules complexity getting a little tiresome these days.

    Also got Iron Cross and Sword and Spear. Iron Cross looks very interesting - will try to post soon.

    1. Glad you liked the post, Darren. To be honest, I'd read through NT's WW2 rules before and blew them off completely. Lately I've been really itching for a change and after playing these I am completely sold. They are a fantastic rules set.
      There are a few ambiguities that are resolved after playing a few times which I'm sure come about as a result of NT trying to be brief.
      Yes I've read your ACW batrep and it is great! Makes me want to play a larger ACW game with NT's rules.

      Looking forward to hearing about Iron Cross.

      I am a member of the "AMW" Yahoo group that features Neil Thomas' rules and am going to download some of the alternate era fan-produced supplements today and give them a read now.

      His handling of close assaults, as well as infantry vrs tank combat is really wonderful. The PBI finally get the recognition on the battlefield they richly deserve! 5 stars.

  2. Interesting stuff. May need to look at these myself. Good to see infantry being given a bit of clout against armour for a change.

    1. Claybo - I recommend that you grab a copy of the book. Well worth it for the hobby information alone even if you don't like his rules. I'm a big NT fan.

      The infantry are deadly unless you bring your own infantry along. It was great in a rules set to see that come to fruition.

  3. A fine battle narrative and review of the rule set(s).

    1. Great to hear from you again, Archduke. I'm glad you enjoyed the battle report and the review. I plan on writing more when I find the time to game them!

  4. Great stuff. I also found the OHW WWII to be a bit thin, and I ended up working on it for a while. It isn't 100%, but I have it in very playable form within the [broadened] limits of the rules. Give them a try and LMK what you think! Meanwhile, I think I need to try these, also.

    1. Thanks Alex glad you liked the battle report. I tried the OHW WW2 and didn't particularly care for it. Not enough detail for my taste (although the level of detail for say Horse and Musket or ancients was good).

      I will check these out thank you!

  5. hah - $12 at Amazon, won't resist for all the reasons you mention. I like the simplicity and have found that it gives lots of time to think about tactics and not mind-numbing mounds of rules that nearly no one understands.

    1. Yes and be sure to check out the Neil Thomas rules yahoo group (AMW I think it's called?) I have been very happy with these rules and am going to play more of them I think. I honestly had no idea the WW2 rules were this good. Definitely playing them again!
      I want to play the Napoleonics rules again soon. Maybe the ancients as well.

  6. Where are you in PA? I'm just outside Philadelphia in Abington Twp. I hit 7th Dimension Games in Jenkintown periodically, doing demos and playtesting my NT rules.

    1. A mere stones throw from you in Horsham. I've been to 7th Dimension Games but have never actually played a game there. How do the folks there like the NT rules?

  7. I've been getting great feedback in all my playtests. In my last blog post a total newbie legitimately beat me - I wasn't decisive enough in my attack, and he did a great job preserving his armor from total destruction.

    Shoot me g-mail at aama19147, and we'll kick around some playtesting. I've Dark Age and WWII rules in good shape, and am now tinkering with ECW and WSS variants. I'm interested in checking out Crossfire, also. Cheers, a.

    1. Will do. Crossfire, IMHO, is a great game and never gets the recognition it deserves. I think it really captures the tension of pace of infantry combat well.

      I've been reading over your mods for OHW and they look interesting. The right amount of detail for what's probably an over-simplified set for WW2.

      I have a battle report on this blog (Sep 2015) where I played a terrific AWI game using OHW. I'll shoot you an email.

  8. Great AAR. I agree with the close assault into buildings scenario. No suppression means direct frontal assault; never wise, often fatal.

    Looking forward to your reprise of the Napoleonic rules set. We are dipping our toes into Black Powder just now looking for something smaller scale than Shako 2 for Brigade sized games.

    Keep up the good work.

    1. Glad you liked the AAR, SRD! Assaulting a building or dug-in position is hazardous to your health. :)

      I have played NT's Napoleonics in the past a few times and I like them very much. I spend much less time negotiating the rule book and much more time playing.

      Black Powder is still one of my favorite Horse and Musket era rules sets to play. If you're looking for a more tactical-level game with more tactical flavor for the period, it's hard to beat IMHO. I also liked Mark Sims' "Rank & File" although I don't have much experience over 5 or 6 units on a side.

      BLack Powder seems to handle large amounts of units nicely.

  9. Hi Steven,
    I have enjoyed your Sound Officers Call blog, and you are one of the few folks I can find who has tried these rules. I have yet to do so (still re-basing/painting infantry), but in the meantime I published my interpretation of the rules, trying to fill in the many gaps. After I have tried a couple of games straight up, I will likely incorporate some rule changes. If you have the time and inclination, I would appreciate it if you would review my notes and see if I am interpreting them the same as you, in case I like your version better. I couldn't find an email address on your profile, so I added this as a comment to a post about these rules and hope you see it.

    Posted here on my dead blog.

    Steven, If you're not interested or too busy, I completely understand.

    Thanks and regards,
    John Ferryman

    1. Just saw this now!! I think i found your blog by chance amd emailed you without seei g this?