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"How many 'Kills' are actually dead soldiers?" Topic

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1,172 hits since 6 Jan 2013
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Last Hussar06 Jan 2013 7:15 a.m. PST

I've posted before (here and other fora) that 'Kills' in wargames can represent a actual death everytime- the casualty rates in tabletop battles outstrip real life. The way I look at this is each 'kill' is not necessarily a death. It could be a wound, or just a man who is too scared to take any more meaningful part in the battle.

This is particularly important in campaigns/linked scenarios – some men are available for the next battle, others will be out for some time, but will come back.

What sort of proportion do we think are
Kills/permanent removal from theatre
Long term wounds
Short term wounds
single battle wounds/to scared this battle only.

79thPA Supporting Member of TMP06 Jan 2013 7:36 a.m. PST

I don't consider kills to be actually 'kills' either. They can't be. To me, kills also include helping wounded comrades out of the firing line/back to a safe spot. Anything that renders the soldier ineffective for that battle is a kill. Charles Grant has a campaign casualty system in "The Wargame" which is a set of rules covering Marlburian warfare. He lists:

1/5 of casualties are dead or out of action for campaign
1/5 slightly wounded and available the next day
1/5 wounded and available in 5 days
1/5 wounde and available in 10 days
1/5 wounded and available in 15 days

Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP06 Jan 2013 8:26 a.m. PST

I don't know any gamers that think of casualties as 100% KIA, but rather as "out of action."

vojvoda Inactive Member06 Jan 2013 8:42 a.m. PST

I have never considered KIAs in wargaming anything larger then one to one skirmish games anything but a reflection in the loss of combat effectiveness in a unit. In single air combat games I can see it but there is so much more to unit cohesion and effectiveness that factors in in an abstract way that is reflected on the wargame table.

James Mattes

combatpainter Fezian Inactive Member06 Jan 2013 10:57 a.m. PST

Disposable Heroes calls the casualties- wounds. These could represent any kind of combat loss- from fear, injury, disorientation, AWOL, refusal, death, whichever you prefer.

Little Big Wars Inactive Member06 Jan 2013 11:08 a.m. PST

I don't know any gamers that think of casualties as 100% KIA, but rather as "out of action."

Well when a figure is "Obviously Dead" then there's little room for interpretation. They're more likely to be OOA of course…

Tgunner Supporting Member of TMP06 Jan 2013 11:11 a.m. PST

Ditto. Each kill is just a soldier who is combat ineffective for some reason. He's dead, wounded, hiding, lost/dazed/confused, whatever. At that point he no longer takes an active part in the rest of the game. After the game, if I'm playing a campaign game, I'll use some sort of rule to determine who's back in action and who's really gone.

Personal logo Martin Rapier Supporting Member of TMP06 Jan 2013 12:29 p.m. PST

in skirmish games there is little scope for wiggle room. someone is Kia, wia, mia or they aren't. in 1 base equal whatever rules then a dead base can represent whatever losses would cause that element to be ineffective irl. which may be none at all.

Wartopia Inactive Member06 Jan 2013 1:01 p.m. PST
Lion in the Stars Supporting Member of TMP06 Jan 2013 1:04 p.m. PST

When Flames of War introduced the Vietnam rules, it became pretty clear that one 'removed' stand was actually one wounded soldier and the rest of the stand was busy providing medical care or escorting the wounded back to the casualty collection point.

Personal logo Don Manser Sponsoring Member of TMP06 Jan 2013 3:16 p.m. PST

20% or so as a general rule.


Skarper06 Jan 2013 5:31 p.m. PST

If a squad of 9 men is 'wiped out' in a game then probably only 3 are actual serious casualties – killed or incapacitated by wounds.

A few more might have borderline wounds that justify evacuation but who could fight on in extremis. The others – the vast majority – are still unwounded but just finished for game purposes. They will find a quiet corner and sit out the action. Some may die or become POWs if the enemy 'mops up' of course.

There are statistics on this somewhere that say about 1/3 losses for a small unit = destroyed.

Lion in the Stars Supporting Member of TMP06 Jan 2013 10:05 p.m. PST

There are statistics on this somewhere that say about 1/3 losses for a small unit = destroyed.

That's certainly the rule of thumb my friend the US Army Captain used when I was hitting him with what-ifs. A unit that had taken 1/3 casualties (actual WIA/KIA) was combat-ineffective.

Personal logo Martin Rapier Supporting Member of TMP07 Jan 2013 5:18 a.m. PST

Yes, destruction at 30% ish (personnel, not equipment) losses applies to units up to battalion size, but they can usually be reorganised to become combat effective again in short order.

Of those losses, in twentieth century warfare, roughy one third each are killed, seriously wounded or lightly wounded. Proportions vary by theatre, speed of casevac, medical technique etc.

A subunit can be stopped by far fewer losses than 30% though. The loss of just a handful of key junior leaders or line soldiers in an infantry platoon can be enough to stop it in its tracks. Not destroyed, but certainly incapable of advancing. The 'gutful men' described by Lt Colonel Wigram, the ones who carry the platoon forward, also often the first to get killed.

Most wargames rules are bit more bloody than that.

Griefbringer07 Jan 2013 5:35 a.m. PST

In WWII context, my understanding is that for every man killed in a single action, there would typically be around 3-4 men wounded seriously enough to take them out of action for some period of time. Out of those wounded, some might die later on in field hospital, some might be no longer capable of service, and others might take months or weeks to recover back to combat level.

Evacuating the wounded to the rear would certainly tie down manpower in action – it might take 1-4 men to escort a wounded man to the rear, and these could be thus out of action for at least a couple of hours.

Some games allow medics to restore physically wounded men back to combat effectiveness by giving them first aid for a turn. I would not consider this realistic in most situations. However, what the medics might be able to do would be to better stabilise the wounded and better organise their evacuation – thus giving the wounded better chances of survival/recovery, and perhaps reducing the number of men tied down in the evacuation of the wounded.

StarGrunt has interesting rules for stabilisation and evacuation of the wounded.

Marc33594 Supporting Member of TMP07 Jan 2013 6:36 a.m. PST

The issue is the use of the word "kills" rather then the proper word "casualties". If gamers got more used to the fact we are marking casualties it would become clearer. Casualties, as the military defines the term, is made up of Killed In Action (KIA), Wounded In Action (WIA) and Missing In Action (MIA). Of course that is only the most immediate numbers. Many WIA may in fact die of their wounds later for example. The percentages of the various categories changes over time as does ultimate outcome. But, as others have stated, for WW II, the rough math is 1/3 KIA or die of wounds.

Andy ONeill07 Jan 2013 7:13 a.m. PST

At around 30% losses an assaulting unit is supposed to be almost certain to break.
If you plug the numbers in for rorkes drift the repeated charge, break, rally, charge across the garden are supposed to fit these numbers.
One might imagine zulu morale to be particularly high.

Not sure about dug in defenders.
Probably higher losses would be necessary.

But it's certainly true that many real life combats are decided with way fewer actual deaths than the 'kills' in most game systems.
Some do emphasise suppression over killing though.

BullDog69 Inactive Member07 Jan 2013 7:37 a.m. PST

Not a WW2 action, but let's take the Battle of Colenso as an example. Most wargames rules would represent this as an absolute tanking for the Brits – but in reality, they lost less than 1% of their force KIA.
Insignificant losses, we might think – but seemingly not.

Personal logo Legion 4 Supporting Member of TMP07 Jan 2013 9:23 a.m. PST

Yes, at 1/3 losses a unit is considered combat ineffective. In our games with each infantry stand having 5 figures or so(generally equal to a Fire Tm)… a stand that is removed from play, Killed, Destroyed, however you phrase it, 1 or 2 of the those figures would actually be KIA. Another 1 or 2 WIA to the point of being unable to function effectively. The rest may be fine or slightly WIA but does not affect them from fighting. Or some suppressed/"shocked" and unable to function … Take your pick … it would be mix of any or all of those categories …

Personal logo vtsaogames Supporting Member of TMP07 Jan 2013 12:39 p.m. PST

In bloody rules, I think of losses as 50% killed, wounded or prisoner and the other 50% are troops who help wounded friends back to the aid station or otherwise leave the front. I assume most of them will turn up at the chow line that night or the next day.

Think of the masses of troops hiding in the woods behind the line at Waterloo, or the crowds of stragglers lining the riverbank at Shiloh. They weren't hit but they were sure out of action.

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