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"Spearheading WW1!" Topic

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1,191 hits since 7 Oct 2012
©1994-2014 Bill Armintrout
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herkybird Supporting Member of TMP07 Oct 2012 7:54 a.m. PST

We did a WW1 Spearhead game at the club this week. There is a write up at link

Lots of Pics….!


Norman D Landings Supporting Member of TMP07 Oct 2012 9:32 a.m. PST

Gotta love divisional arty!

Did lots of little things wrong, but even if I hadn't missed a trick, the dastardly Boche would still have been saved by the clock!

Steve W07 Oct 2012 9:59 a.m. PST

Looks like you had great fun, cant wait for GWS2 to appear soon

Personal logo Rrobbyrobot Supporting Member of TMP07 Oct 2012 1:44 p.m. PST

Great lookin' game. Who says WW1 games can't be fun? I'll bet some action in the middle east could be a blast. Pun intended.

John Leahy Sponsoring Member of TMP08 Oct 2012 12:59 p.m. PST

Yeah, I'm a fan of early war too. That is a nice looking game. I also am a fan of battles on the Eastern front as well as the Africa and the Middle East.



mghFond08 Oct 2012 1:16 p.m. PST

Our group has done some early war Eastern front with Germans and Austro-Hungarians against Russians in 10mm.

Last year or so though, I've been putting on games of the Isonzo front between Italians and Austro-Hungarians using the Blue Moon figs with French as Italians and Germans as AHs. Some real bloodbaths…but then its WW1.

rsutton24 Nov 2012 4:54 p.m. PST

I really need to visit this page more often.. just noticed your GWSH work.. well done/nice work…

Kind regards

Ponder25 Nov 2012 10:39 a.m. PST


Looks more like a Napoleonic battle than 1914 – lots of maneuvering and attacking columns.

Is that an artifact of the game system?

Ponder on,


monk2002uk01 Dec 2012 2:18 p.m. PST

You are too used to the wrong ground scale in 'The Death of Glory – France 1914' ;-) If you go back to the photos of Death of Glory games and then view groups of units as companies. Take these groups and compress them down by a factor of at least 50% (probably more). You will see something that looks 'Napoleonic' but the ground scale will be completely different from a Napoleonic game.

Strictly speaking, Death of Glory should be played on a different ground scale. This will showcase the small unit manoeuvre capabilities but the movements of a DoG company take place within the area covered by a GWSH stand. It is a different level of abstraction.


Ponder02 Dec 2012 4:50 p.m. PST


I'm sorry I could not follow your exposition.

Wrong ground scale – what do you mean?

Command Decision uses 1 inch as 50 yards.

What are you comparing this with?

Ponder on,


monk2002uk06 Dec 2012 10:15 a.m. PST

To be more clear, the WW1 variant of Command Decision runs as a WW2 scale game. The units are much more widely distributed than would have been the case in WW1. This isn't a problem if you just want to enjoy the game and you are familiar with Command Decision. It causes problems, however, when you try to compare the WW1 variant with something like GWSH.


Ponder06 Dec 2012 1:09 p.m. PST

I'm still not sure what you mean.

Most of the scenario in the France 1914 book are historical actions, with units and ground based on actual (e.g., Longlier, Haelen, Neufchateau, Ourcq). I note several of the scenarios are composites representing only a portion of the action (such as the Guise scenario).

Note the France 1914 scenario book focuses on maneuver battles during the Marne Campaign, prior to the trench stalemate.

Ponder on,


Ponder06 Dec 2012 1:14 p.m. PST

What is the unit and ground scale in GWSH?


monk2002uk07 Dec 2012 3:44 p.m. PST

Let's examine the Haelen example. I don't have the scenario details, other than what was posted on the TOB online community. There is a detailed description, however, of the Haelen scenario as played out at Cold Wars 2010. This includes the OOBs and photographs of the battlefield. From the overview photographs, it appears as if the battlefield includes the Gette and Velpen rivers. There is a small section of the Demer river represented on table. The BUAs are not labelled but Haelen can be identified next to the Vette river (and by the fact that it was heavily contested in the game). Given the relationship of Haelen to the rivers then it appears that the towns of Velpen, Donk, Loksbergen and Waterkand are also represented on the table as well. Is this correct?


Ponder07 Dec 2012 6:20 p.m. PST


I posted in haste and from memory, both my errors. The Haelen scenario has both compressed ground scale and troops. Only a cavalry brigade on the table for the Germans. So there you have a point the scale is literally wrong. But that's a scenario thing, not a flaw in the system – more below.

The ground scale in Ourcq is similarly compressed. Troops not compressed however to the extent forces engaged are known to me (so troop density greater than historical over the area represented by the table, but probably closer once in contact).

So both of these scenarios would be better listed as composites. I apologize for misleading here.

However, Longlier and Neufchateau are accurate for table space to real space. Longlier is a regimental battle, and Neufchateau is a brigade battle. I would not recommend more than a brigade of troops on the table for CD, things would become unplayable. That's a key point for wargaming – it has to be fun.

I still do not understand your comment on wrong ground scale; what is wrong with 1" = 50 yards. It depends on the scenario design as to whether it directly corresponds.

How far can troops march in an hour on the road? IIRC correctly, CD has a road rate of about 2.5 mph for foot troops.

What is the ground and troop scale for GWSH? Do their march rates work out realistically? I bet their scenarios also compress/expand ground scale to some extent. But then wargaming is not simulation gaming – it has to be fun, be playable.

If you flew over a WW1 battlefield looking down would you see maneuvering columns as if you'd flown over a Napoleonic battle? That was the gist of my initial comment, no more.

Ponder on,


monk2002uk07 Dec 2012 10:57 p.m. PST

Thank you for the clarifications. The issue is not 1" = 50 yds. It is the density of troops if you choose to use that scale. Of course it is perfectly fine to compress ground and unit scales to make for a fun game. I know these battlefields well, having walked many of them and studied the terrain maps/force dispositions in detail. It is immediately apparent that FoG has a WW2 feel to it, with respect to the disposition of forces per 50 yards. Again this is fine as the games are fun.

Be careful, however, when you apply this perspective to other rulesets. Do not confuse a GWSH stand with a more densely covered Napoleonic equivalent. From a Napoleonic perspective, there would be up to at least 4x the number of troops in the same area as a GWSH stand. When you see GWSH stands lined together, it does not mean wall-to-wall men in a Napoleonic formation – the equivalent Napoleonic formation would be much less wide for example. GWSH stands that are together means GWSH units operating in close proximity to each other but with the men being more spread out on each stand. Although the GWSH stand represents more widely spread men compared with Napoleonic, they are no where near as spread out as their WW2 counterparts. Spearhead, which is the WW2 version, has the same size stands as GWSH. Whereas a GWSH stand represents a company, in Spearhead it represents a platoon.

Getting back to your point about flying over a WW1 battlefield, you would indeed see manoeuvring columns from the air. They would look like coherent formations but with the men more widely spread out than their Napoleonic counterparts.


Ponder08 Dec 2012 10:08 a.m. PST


OK, you think it feels better. No problem – but does it actually have distance/time measurements that are reasonable? That is at the heart of scale.

So, what is the ground scale & troop scale of GWSH?

What is the road movement rate?

In CD you could easily maneuver troops more densely packed, but players have learned the lessen less density means less casualties.

The key bit from a game system is what is the level of command, what radius of effect does a commander have. In CD it is the company, and a 6 inch (300 yd) radius.

What corresponds for GWSH?

I don't understand why you refuse to answer these simple questions.

Ponder on,


Ponder08 Dec 2012 9:14 p.m. PST


From poking around on-line it apprears GWSH uses 1 stand as a company.

Movement is 8-inches per turn for infantry. No apparent road bonus for infantry marching on roads.

Ground scale, I saw one scenario with 12 inches = 1000 yards (1 inch = 83.3 yds). Other scenarios did not list the scale for the map.

I could not determine the length of time represented by each turn.

I could not determine the command radius or equivalent.

So, I'm still in the dark for the most part, here.

Ponder on,


monk2002uk09 Dec 2012 12:40 a.m. PST

With respect to understanding what WW1 formations look like immediately behind the battle lines, check out the middle section of this video here:


It shows a British/Dominion cavalry formation getting ready to move forward in 1918. The relatively close formations reflect the aerial dominance achieved by the British during the Battle of Amiens.


Ponder09 Dec 2012 3:21 p.m. PST


I see road columns/company columns, we still move troops that way today (although the cav shown seems to move as a herd at least while crossing the RR track) – I don't see maneuvering battalion columns ala Napoleonics.

I don't think deployment for battle/movement to contact in 1914 looked like a Napoleonic battle. I've seen 1914 photos of the Germans moving forward in their "skirmisher swarm." I think you would see road columns moving forward, then deploying. I'm sure commanders attempted to avoid having their road columns come under artillery fire. I don't think you would see battalion columns maneuvering together in a regimental or brigade formation.

So how come you don't want to describe GWSH in more detail?

I suspect because while the scale numbers are slightly different, they are not that different from CD.

Ponder on,


sjwalker3809 Dec 2012 4:28 p.m. PST


As a dispassionate observer, thinking about what rules to use for 1914 WW1 games, and genuinely interested in the differences between GWSH and CD in their treatment of the period, I'm wondering why you're being quite 'aggressive' in your questions?

"I don't understand why you refuse to answer these simple questions."

"So how come you don't want to describe GWSH in more detail?"

Do you have some axe to grind over the rules in question, or am I missing something? It's only pushing toy soldiers around. The poor guy only posted a link to a fun game he played, and has responded in some detail to your questions, and could be deterred from posting in the future, to the detriment of all.

Best regards

Ponder09 Dec 2012 5:44 p.m. PST


No axe, other than his comment CD uses the "wrong scale" and then refusing to elborate what scale GWSH uses. Obviously, Robert has strong preferences, and you are right, it would be best to just let it drop.

Ponder on,


monk2002uk09 Dec 2012 8:13 p.m. PST

sjwalker38, JAS's reaction isn't a problem as far as I am concerned. It is always difficult to read intentions behind electronic messages and I don't interpret these things personally at all.

JAS, I am not saying GWSH 'feels better'. The descriptions of FoG games show that the players have enjoyed them. Great.

My response was to your observation that photos of a GWSH game suggested Napoleonic style mechanics. I have pointed out that the two games are based on different perspectives. FoG appears to be based on WW2 mechanics. GWSH came from a WW2 game (Spearhead) but several mechanics were changed fundamentally. This reflects the major differences in frontages, as one example, between the two eras. These differences will make GWSH seem very different for someone who is used to Command Decision.

As to 'strong preferences', I am not going to get drawn into a detailed discussion about the various mechanics. The systems are very different, especially given that the focus of GWSH was readjusted away from its WW2 parent. On the issue of command radius, however, there are constraints applied at brigade, division and corps levels in GWSH. If you focus down to a company in GWSH then there is no way it could have the equivalent of a command radius of 300 yards. This is a WW2 artefact.

Let's examine the issue of 'skirmisher swarm' with respect to ground scale. The photographs that you refer to come from manoeuvres. If anything then the formations became more open during battle than was portrayed in the photographs. From detailed battle reports, however, there is no way that a German infantry company would have covered a frontage of anything remotely like 600 yds, which is the maximum possible in CD if the flank units are at maximum command radius either side of the company command stand. Bloem wrote about his company's advance near Tetre in the Battle of Mons. It is very clear that the advance broke down into shorter rushes by smaller and smaller groups of men. By looking at the details of his account and marrying these with extra information from the regimental accounts and from the British war diaries, it is possible to work out how widely distributed his company became. In fact, the entire four company battalion covered a frontage of less than 600 yards. Bloem's company was probably about 120 yds wide, with the small units (down to the equivalent in sections) distributed in depth, not width. This makes sense when you appreciate that command was still exercised by verbal signals. In other words, you could blanket the whole of Bloem's company advancing in skirmisher formation with a single stand that measures approx. 100 yds x 100 yds. This is how to think of GWSH.

Bloem's regiment advanced with its companys side-by-side. The units were distributed in skirmisher formations. From a GWSH perspective, however, the stands will appear alongside each other. If you choose to interpret this as Napoleonic formations then you are free to do so. I choose not too, FWIIW. Rather each stand represents that company's units shaken out into skirmisher formations across the breadth and depth of the stand. Even with 2mm figures, it is not possible to represent this accurately visually.


Ponder10 Dec 2012 9:21 a.m. PST


You're changing the subject, slightly but still reshaping the argument. My observation was the game table looked Napoleonic. It was an observation on game mechanics.

You may be correct that the photos described are from 1914 maneuvers and not from the war. But what of the wartime sketches of advancing troops. Look at Zuber's "Ardennes" book, sketch opposite page 128 and text 52-58 or his "Mons" book pages 47-54.

German infantry regulations would say frontage is situation dependent and not provide a "textbook" answer; some guidance is provided. The Germans wanted to commit the minimum force and keep strong reserves, in particular to exploit success: four platoons on a 375 meter front if resistance is light, eight against heavy.

Restating in the terms of this discussion, for expected light resistance that's roughly a company with a 400 yard frontage, decreased to about 200 yards for expected heavy resistance.

What do British regulations say?

As to Bloem's account, while I have not read it in awhile I don't recall it offering descriptions of specific frontages. You are speculating, perhaps reasonably. But also note Bloem is describing an unsuccessful attack. Perhaps the density of troops you offer is a reason the attack was unsuccessful?

Ponder on,


monk2002uk10 Dec 2012 8:36 p.m. PST

JAS, with respect but I am not changing the subject at all. I am trying to illustrate how troop densities worked in the early weeks of 1914. The purpose of this is to help differentiate Napoleonic formations and mechanics from early WW1 and WW2.

In my comment on the photographs, I noted that 'if anything then the formations became more open during battle than was portrayed in the photographs'. I am very familiar with the sketches that appear in Zuber's books. These sketches are present in many German regimental histories that were printed after the war. Having seen many other sketches that are not included in his books, I would be loathe to base any deductions on them FWIIW. Particularly with respect to frontage and troop density at company level.

When you are referring to 'German infantry regulations', are you referring to 'Exerzier-Reglement für die Infanterie vom 20. Mai 1906'?

With respect to Bloem's account, please note that I referred to multiple sources for understanding the frontages. The main reason that the attack was unsuccessful is clearly evident in his book. The units failed to achieve the fundamental task of fire suppression during an assault.


Ponder11 Dec 2012 9:19 a.m. PST


Getting back to game mechanics, shown below is a picture from a CD game. This from Historicon in 2010 and the Guise scenario. Germans are attacking in the morning fog (visibility was 2 inches). At this point in the game, the initial attack has been repulsed and the regiment is deploying for a second attack.

Typcial company frontage is about 200 to 300 yds(4 to 6 inches on the table). Does this look like WW2? It's a shame the regimental commander (on horseback) is not shown in the photo.

Ponder on,


Ponder11 Dec 2012 10:01 a.m. PST


Some more CD game photos, this time with the French attacking. These from Cold Wars 2011 and the Neufchateau scenario.

Photo 1 – French reinforcements deploy on the left (west) flank

Photo 2 – French firing line

Photo 3 – More marching French

Again, this does not look like WW2 to me. Company frontages are again 4 to 6 inches on the table. Photo 2 has a 3 inch (150 yards) company frontage.

Ponder on,


monk2002uk11 Dec 2012 1:53 p.m. PST

Before commenting on the photos, I want to return to your earlier post on frontages. It is not clear to me where this information came from: 'The Germans wanted to commit the minimum force and keep strong reserves, in particular to exploit success: four platoons on a 375 meter front if resistance is light, eight against heavy.' To double-check, I went back to the pages you referenced Zuber's books, plus some extra pages either side. From page 51 of 'Ardennes':

"The concept of an attack sector was an innovation of the 1906 Exerzier-Reglement. A war-strength company (250 men) would generally deploy on a 150m front, a battalion on a 300m front (with two companies forward) or 450m front (with three companies forward), a brigade with six infantry battalions on a 1500m front. The attack sectors were kept deliberately narrow to allow a deployment in depth…"

The subsequent pages describe a test of the new infantry doctrine. The 'brigade plan was to deploy its two regiments abreast, ten companies on a 1,500m front. The lead companies [advanced] on a front of 150m [per company]'. The Mons quote is almost identical.

Back to the photos. The Guise scenario has company frontages up to twice as wide as the 'standard'. With the spread of companies then the battalion frontages are pushed wider than was normal. If the company frontages are 200-300 yds then that is one thing. But the problem comes with the map:


If the actual ground scale of the real world map is used, however, then the frontages are much wider. This makes the units appear more like WW2 distributions. We have touched on this issue before and I understand the desire to compress the battlefields.

The Neufchateau scenario comes closest to 1914 style frontages at company level. Battalions still look to be more spread out but the advantage of Neufchateau is that the battlefield was more suited to this level of game.

When you go to this scale, it is hard to get the right lay of the land. Early war was about narrow frontages with forces distributed in depth. This was true for all sides, British and French included.

As you continue to compress forces more closely together, as per Breitkopf's description in Zuber's book, then the GWSH representation begins to make sense. Remember that is it not just about getting company frontages right. The brigade and battalion frontages are tighter too.

Now go to the sketches again. Visualise the German soldiers advancing in bounds as illustrated. Recognise that they are not wider than 150 yds total and it should be evident that the seemingly more tightly packed companies are definitely not like Napoleonic formations.


Ponder11 Dec 2012 2:20 p.m. PST


I see no progress here. I quit.

As I clearly stated, the Guise map is compressed it is not a 1:1 correspondence. I bet you can say the same of many GWSH scenario maps. If you want a 1:1 correspondence go to the Longlier or Neufchateau maps. CD does not use the wrong scale anymore than GWSH does – two different games. I can nitpick the online GWSH scenarios too. There is no point in doing so!!!

Robert wrote: "Now go to the sketches again. Visualise the German soldiers advancing in bounds as illustrated. Recognise that they are not wider than 150 yds total and it should be evident that the seemingly more tightly packed companies are definitely not like Napoleonic formations." emphasis added.

The later is exactly my point. Not Napoleonic!!! To my mind the GWSH photos evoked the image of maneuvering battalion columns. For the last time, I don't think a 1914 battlefield would look like maneuvering Napoleonic columns.



monk2002uk11 Dec 2012 11:48 p.m. PST

Forgive me but this is not about 'nitpicking'. It is about developing a shared understanding of how infantry units were dispersed on an early WW1 battlefield and how they manoeuvred. I note that you have not come back with any evidence to support the earlier comments on platoon frontages. FWIIW, here is the translation from the 1906 German infantry regulations (although you haven't confirmed that this was the version you were referring to, I presume this to be the case). The translation comes from the section in the regulations that Zuber translated as 'Attack on a Deployed Enemy', which he further described as 'the baseline tactic for all German attacks' (p. 50, 'Ardennes'):

"373. With regard to the deployment of units during an attack [on a deployed enemy], the evidence is that an infantry company at wartime strength shall not exceed ('höchstens') a frontage of 150 m, and about 1,500 m for a brigade of 6 battalions."

Please note that this paragraph sets out a maximum frontage. As I pointed out in my earlier discussion on Bloem's unit (which is mirrored over and over in other accounts – I just used Bloem's example because it is the most widely read), frontages in early wartime were often less than this. The reason you cannot routinely distribute platoons and companies more widely boils down to the command process needed for musketry – in this case the application of massed rifle fire on an enemy to achieve fire suppression during an advance. The process, which is described by Zuber, involved the use of range-finders and NCOs. They ensured that the fire control and fire direction commands were passed down the line by word of mouth. In battle conditions, this required men to be close enough to hear. Remember that the infantry bounds forward were all directed at creating and then building up a 'thick' skirmishing line for achieving fire suppression. So the loose formations adopted for getting forward were then transformed into a more dense firing line that, for a company, was usually not more than 150 m wide as noted above.

With regards to GWSH maps, I am very happy to speak to these as most of them have been created by me. I take full responsibility for any errors and am very comfortable that you might offer constructive criticism. Almost all of the maps have been created from original WW1 trench maps from a very large collection that I have built up. The scale is kept as uniform as possible because my main interest is to understand how historical battles played out and why. Details of force dispositions come from a wide range of sources. The variety and depth of sources has increased significantly in recent years, particularly around German and French primary sources. There are many published online and I have acquired large numbers of British, German, Belgian and French regimental and other primary accounts (various generals, soldiers, etc, etc). In addition, it is great having access to many of the military historians as well.

Does all of this mean that I understand early WW1 fully? By no means at all. There is still much to learn and the process of doing so is fascinating. This is why I am more than happy for you to challenge any aspect of my contributions, be they maps or otherwise.

My current focus is on building up a range of historical scenarios that involved tanks. This follows on from the Battle of Cambrai that was played out on 12' x 12' of tables (but still did not take in all of the battlefield). At some point, however, I will be revisiting the earlier historical scenarios, many of which are available on the Great War Spearhead Yahoo Group.

As to the issue of Napoleonic formations in GWSH, we will have to differ in our opinions.


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