Thursday, March 6, 2008

Rules of Engagement...

"No mercy to cowards, traitors, rule-lawyers and tread-heads!"

Continuing on my last discussion on rules for Eastern Front games. Not in-depth reviews, just a general guide to my thinking.

As time went by, I realized that I wanted to fight over a larger area than just a few buildings in a village, as had been the case in most of my WW2 gaming in previous years. Basically, I wanted the following:

Speed of Play: clean and quick combat resolution was important. No 1970's style games where more time was spent on calculating hit penetration factors on sloped armour than on determining combat outcomes. Of course I wanted tanks, but I wanted a game where infantry played a central role and where I was making combat decisions, not working out physics algorithms. I have always hated math anyway.

Lots of Pretty Toys: This is why I like wargaming! I know that ranges are huge, and artillery- even mortars- should probably be off-board given ground scale of most rules, but this gamer WANTS to field artillery! Likewise, this is why 6mm and 10mm don't really appeal to me. at that size olive drab is olive drab is olive drab.

(15mm is as low as I'll go, and I confess that I am thinking of going 15mm for my 1942 games as getting a whole force- including infantry- may well work out cheaper than getting 20mm resin or metal BA-7's T-28's and T-26's in the numbers I need! But I digress.)

Company Level Games (or higher): Ideally a basing system that would give me some flexibility here. Subjective call, but I want to be able to have enough manoeuvre units to attack, change direction, retreat and regroup if necessary, and to give a "feel" for the ebb-and-flow of battle.


1) Frank Chadwick's Command Decision 1; I had picked up this game back in the lat 1980's (1st edition with what looks like a picture of Robert Culp on the cover), and it seemed to be a real departure from previous "rivet-counter" rules like Tractics (yechh...). I liked the level of play, and Barbarossa 25, the campaign supplement on opening campaign of the Eastern Front, really caught my imagination. I found the representation of the number of infantry too low for my liking, though, (give me HORDES!) and when GDW went out of business I realized that I would have to look elsewhere to find a rule set that would be supported adequately.

Since that time I believe CD II is available again, but the window of opportunity was lost. Anyway, I never really liked CDII.

2) Grey Storm- Red Steel by Barry Lovell (Firebase Games) was another choice. Now this is one impressive set of rules! It was designed so that 1 miniature = 1 vehicle or man, so that it would require a LOT of miniatures! Unfortunately, I felt that the rules weren't laid out all that well and trying to find relevant rule sections quickly was not easy. Nevertheless, being specifically for the Eastern Front this is one of the most well-researched rules out there, and makes fascinating and required reading for anyone interested in the period. Loads of useful information which explains the doctrines, differences, strengths and weaknesses of both the German and Soviet army- covering factors such as communications, weather, and even ergonomics of differing tank designs.

Unfortunately it is now long out of production, but if you ever come across a copy, pick it up for the reference value alone. I'll never part with my copy!

3) Spearhead by Arty Conliffe is an interesting set that meets many of my requirements, with good organization charts, and some interesting rules mechanisms. I may try it from time to time. My main objection- quibble, really- is just with the rulebook itself. Unpainted tanks! Unacceptable to a lover of eye-candy such as myself.

It's odd, but for some reason, Spearhead just doesn't seem to get the juices flowing, despite my liking the "Shako" Napoleonic rules by the same author.
There is a kind of "factor X" in what makes me want to try a rule set; this one doesn't have it. Perhaps it's not just me- Spearhead certainly doesn't seem to have made much of a splash in the gaming community. I may give them a go from time to time, though, as they are pretty free and loose on basing sizes, and the set is not without merit.

4)If you call yourself a wargamer, you must have been living in a cave not to have heard of Flames of War. This set of rules from New Zealand must have made one of the biggest impacts on the whole wargaming scene in the past five years or so, and Battlefront have set the bar so much higher as far as production values, marketing and professionalism. The rules- and indeed the whole concept- has its detractors, but what other company has done so much for raising the profile not just of WW2 gaming, but historical wargaming as a whole? It is a well-supported set of rules, with a great website support and you are more likely to be able to find someone who knows the rules and has a force to play with using FoW than for any other WW2 rules out there.

I'll say right now I basically like these rules. Tournament mentality doesn't worry me as I am simply not interested in playing tournaments, so there. My love of history comes from organizing and painting forces for the wargames table. I am willing to take liberties with history on the gaming table as I am not a soldier
and fall happily somewhere around the middle of the simulation/ game continuum.

But, the rules are spread out over a number of books that I am not about to buy, and I am not so crazy about some of the mechanisms, but I can live with them and there are always house rules! The problem is the level of representation- like Grey Storm-Red Steel 1 miniature seems to equal 1 vehicle or man (and woman in the case of one Soviet tank commander!), so a Russian force can cost a fair whack.

I can't help but feel that a steady diet of FoW- and FoW- alone for my WW2 fix will bore me. But it is a game that I will be happy to return to from time to time, so it gets a green light from me.

So, that leaves my latest choice for rules, but more on that later- Blitzkrieg Commander is winging its way to me here in Japan as I type!

1 comment:

Geoff W said...

Interesting post on WW2 rules. Have you thought about Battlefront WW2 (Fire and Fury style) which I think would address all of your aims! If you have tried FOW, then Rapid Fire! 2 might be right up your street. I had a detailed comparison of Battlefront and BKC published in Miniature Wargames mag a year or so ago.