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"Platoon command and tactics" Topic

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lapatrie8814 Feb 2013 7:05 p.m. PST

A tutorial video for a company-scale rule set gave an example of a platoon that split its 2 rifle teams to advance on an enemy machine gun position. The platoon leader went with the left-hand team through woods while the right team cleared a wall and entered a building. The rifle teams were divided by an open field commanded by the machine guns. Later that turn a second platoon joined the left hand team in the woods, splitting its two rifle teams to either side of the first rifle team and its platoon commander. The right hand team of the first platoon was on its own without a platoon leader.

This seems like an untidy mixing of units and commanders. Historically would there have been difficulties if a company handled its platoons this way?

captain canada14 Feb 2013 8:41 p.m. PST

Yes. Platoons should not co-mingle. That's how sections get born.

Sparker15 Feb 2013 12:06 a.m. PST

Platoon battle drills tell us that the point section should have been concentrating on winning the fire fight and suppressing the enemy, whilst another flanked. Ideally, a third section should have acted as a reserve and be prepared to exploit…

Personally, I'd be tempted to allow the Mortar Fire Controller grab all the glory…

Martin Rapier15 Feb 2013 1:58 a.m. PST

I am slightly confused by the terminology used here as in my mind 'team' has a very specific meaning in the hierarchy of organisations. Companies split into platoons, platoons split into sections/squads and sections split into worms/groups/bricks/teams or whatever the fashionable military terminology of the day is. I am excluding such 'team' abberations as company sized combat teams, RCTs etc.

So it is hard to see how a platoon consists of two rifle teams??

I know Fireball Forward has the concept of a 'team' as a type of element though (roughly corresponding the the SL/ASL half squad). Is that what the example pertains to?

as for real life, yes it is untidy to jumble subunits up and probably Not A Good Idea, however there are very few/any wargames rules which stop you doing it, although there are some which impose C3 penalties for mixing units up (or more commonly, reward unit cohesion). It also happened on occasion irl, despite the nice neat tidy lines drawn on the planning maps.

The Canadian Army did some interesting studies of what actually happened in FIBUA based on data from exercises which is all filmed in the training areas. Generally, rather than advancing in nice neat platoon boxes, the individual fireteams ended up operating more like a flock of birds with the battlefield heavily segmented by the terrain and resolved as a series of micro engagemements with little coordination between sub units any larger than section sized. This also chimes with the studies in David Rowlands 'Stress of Battle' which looked at (literally) hundreds of BAOR exercises up to battalion size as well as WW2 combat studies.

It certainly isn't unheard of for platoons to be fought like a large section operating in two groups, NCOs are quite capable of running things and the whole unit doesn't need to cluster around the Paltoon CO like a flock of ducks. The 1944 Platoon Battle drill usually involved a fire group under the comand of the Platoon Sergeant while the Platoon CO led the assault group around one flank or the other.

Lt Colonel Wigram (who founded Battle Schools in the UK in WW2) recommended in 1943 that infantry platoons should be formally organised as simply two large groups, one with all the Brens led by the Sergeant and a smaller assault group led by the Lt as that is what actually happened in many of the engagements he had observed, although the suggestion wasn't taken up.

Umm, not really sure where I've gone with all of that!

Jumbling sub-units up wasn't encouraged irl, but it is something which did happen.

Andy ONeill15 Feb 2013 2:29 a.m. PST

As Martin says.

What do you mean teams?
Fire teams is a post ww2 thing. ( ex usmc ).
A platoon was 2, 3 or 4 sections/squads.
They'd pretty rarely go off in different directions.

Losing people is pretty likely if you send them off into woods on their own. The officer in charge of a platoon would want his entire platoon in that woods and under his control or somewhere else. Also under his control.

It does sound like this set of rules could be rather short on command control friction.

Skarper15 Feb 2013 2:56 a.m. PST

4 sections/squads was normal fo rseveral armies at the start of WW2. This was reduced to 3 quite quickly though.

I think the 3 squads were expected to operate with one providing base of fire while the others moved. One would get pinned down while the the base of fire took the enemy under fire and the third squad moved in for the kill.

Lt Wigram's ideas are very interesting. I have his report somewhere. Fascinating reading.

lapatrie8815 Feb 2013 4:04 a.m. PST

Thank you, you are taking the discussion the direction I hoped. Sorry about the "team" term, that is what it was called in the videos; it was a Ww2 example though.

My sons like tanks so I am needing help getting into this period. Gaming mostly ancients and 18th century, very honestly, the fluid and reactive nature of 20th century war frightens and confuses me. So I wish to understand it better. In the game I would like to be thinking what my army might have done in the situation, rather than to do whatever the rules permit.

So part of the wisdom is, messy things did happen, but the platoon leader would hesitate to fragment his command and hinder their ability to give mutual support?

Skarper15 Feb 2013 4:12 a.m. PST

Pretty much that lapatrie.

Great to hear of someone spending time with their kids to learn some history and play some games BTW. My dad fueled my interest but then took a back seat. I wish we could have spent more time together on something I enjoyed.

WW2 is a big leap from ancients and horse and musket.

What are the rules you are looking at? Sounds like FOW to me.

lapatrie8815 Feb 2013 4:18 a.m. PST

Skarper, your 3-squad/section responsibilities, would that doctrine apply to all armies; British, US, German , Russian, Japan ?

Martin Rapier15 Feb 2013 5:04 a.m. PST

"but the platoon leader would hesitate to fragment his command and hinder their ability to give mutual support?"

Certainly try avoid losing mutual support. In wargames I am quite happy for players to split their units up, as long as they tell me what their plan is, who is supposed to go where, what the rally point is and how they are going to arrange their signals to coordinate things (like, yellow smoke is the signal for assault and the Brens cease fire etc.). Pulling it all back together if/when things go wrong can be quite entertaining if they have scattered their units to the four winds.

"Skarper, your 3-squad/section responsibilities, would that doctrine apply to all armies; British, US, German , Russian, Japan ?"

Pretty much in broad principles – find the enemy, pin them down, flank them and destroy them.

The main thing is to:

a) avoid the entire platoon being wiped out by the first bursts of enemy fire (so spread out). It is very hard to see stationary defending infantry until they fire.

b) win fire superiority to suppress the enemy fire. If you can't do this bit you may as well pack up and go home as the assault is just going to get shot to bits.

c) assault and clear the enemy position as it is very, very hard to kill defending troops with ranged small arms fire. The assault group doesn't need to be big, but it does need to clear the ground.

the assault group will usually need a covered approach as defensive positons have a nasty tendency to be covered by crossfire from their mates – or suppress the supporting positions too (a job for neighbouring platoons, artillery fire etc)

Some wargames rules reflect these sorts of considerations better than others.

For planning purposes, these sorts of attacks only work if the attackers outnumber the defender roughly 3:1, so a platoon can take on a section, a company a platoon and so-on. A single rifle section can only really hope to take on the mysterious 'isolated group of enemy riflemen' so beloved of manual writers.

Troop quality, levels of fortification, terrain etc may modify the actual required odds ratios (iirc for attacking built up areas the recommended planning ratio these days is 10:1).

irl such an attack has around a 70% chance of success, in your average wargame it will be a walkover unless the defender is both dug in and hidden. For a 'good game' I usually reckon on 3:2 odds attacker:defender in an open game, 2:1 if the defender is dug in or hidden and 3:1 if both.

Skarper15 Feb 2013 6:26 a.m. PST

Games usually favour the attacker far more than real life does. 1:1 ratio is often enough to attack in wargames because the attacker can concentrate on a very narrow axis and the defensive threat from most weapons is 'dialed down' considerably.

If you allocate the correct level of MGs to a defensive position, and let them set up in depth with interlocking fields of fire, crossfires (from positions the attackers cannot see until they wander into the line of fire) and then coordinate preplanned mortar fires you can stop a whole battalion with just a couple of platoons. You won't kill them all but they'll be pinned down and taking losses for hours before the ammo runs out or some 'gutful' men manage to knock out a machine gun nest or two and open the floodgates.

Then you can fall back to your secondary positions and start again….

The German army handbook link gives a lot of info on small unit tactics including frontages for various sized units on the attack and defence.

A platoon was supposed to atatck on a frontage of 150-200 metres while on the defence it would be assigned roughly double that width. Given that on the defence the platoon would normally keep a squad (Gruppe) out of the line in local reserve you arrive at the magic 3:1.

Attacks would also normally go in in 2 or more waves and in the case of a Normandy set piece attack the British would have tank support at a ratio of about 1 per platoon and be following a creeping barrage.

lapatrie8815 Feb 2013 6:36 a.m. PST

Martin, that is a gem, thank you.

And thanks also to the other gentlemen above. All very generous with your knowledge and passion, and very welcome from my standpoint.

With my starting level of misunderstanding of the historic doctrine it was better for me to leave the question of specific rules for later. We have been reading the TMP threads specific to rules for the past couple of months while starting to paint up some miniatures. I am certainly interested in your recommendations. Perhaps that is another thread? My guess is that we can have a good game with a variety of popular rule sets, assuming I can grasp the historic context, and play the game in a hopefully realistic manner. So my starting point is, not what are the rules, but how to play the period. And eventually, what would be different between the opposing armies (besides their evolving armor and weapons).

Skarper15 Feb 2013 7:29 a.m. PST

This is a really good site for the TOEs right down to squad level.

It used to have articles on tactics too but these are not on the site at the moment.

The 4 big armies operated in markedly different ways depending on the weapons used.

It can be a steep learning curve I suppose. I've been intersted in WW2 all my life so there's a lot of detail I've 'always' known.

Take your time and it will all click into place.

For rules there are some good skirmish level (1 man is 1 figure and with ground scales quite close to the model scale) that are quite good and will teach you the basics.

I would steer clear of Flames of War for now. It is extremely popular and has some things going for it but it will teach you some very bizarre tactics. It also makes you buy more models/figures than you probably want to at first.

Legion 415 Feb 2013 7:34 a.m. PST

Bleeped text happens in a firefight, on occasions Fire Tms, Squads and Platoons get mingled … especially in closed terrain like thick woods or urban … Modern Infantry Tactics, born in WWII is based on one element(or elements) laying down suppressive fire, while other elements maneuver on the enemy from cover to cover. That's the short answer …

Personal logo Jeff Ewing Supporting Member of TMP15 Feb 2013 7:44 a.m. PST

Osprey has a useful book on WW2 infantry small unit actions, chock full of illustrations and examples: link

The actual US Army manuals for infantry leaders are available as PDFs as well: link

Andy ONeill15 Feb 2013 7:58 a.m. PST

Dad was a sergeant in the chindits.
He trained as an infantry man in conventional tactics in the UK then in jungle warfare in India.
He was taught to think of the platoon as a three legged beast.
Two legs down, one leg moves.
All one beast though.
Don't over stretch or you fall over.
Don't shuffle.

For a company attack there would be one platoon forward and two back or two forward and one back.
Often one forward.
So a triangle and that platoon at the point might be the only one really doing much.

I think Martin pretty much covered it but…

The thing to get your head round with any moderns game is the empty battlefield.
High explosive and machine guns kill people standing about in the open.
But you need to move.
So everyone scuttles about in "dashes" spending most of the time hugging dirt and doing nothing much.
You need your sections to support each other but you need them spread out so one mortar shell doesn't wipe your platoon out.
You don't want the enemy to move.
The big bangs or point blank bullets are what kill people and it's obvious which is the least risky.
A fair bit of tactics is about pinning the enemy whilst you call in mortars or artillery or scarper so his artillery doesn't pound you to bits.

Despite all that killing power if you watch footage of Afghanistan you can easily find combats lasting hours with loads of bullets fired and nobody seems to actually get hit.
The enemy are somewhere just on the other side of that 100 yard field.
Why shoot?
You don't want the other fellow getting the drop on you.
Most firing is mainly suppressive – it pins.

donlowry15 Feb 2013 9:43 a.m. PST

Platoons don't have commanders, they have leaders.

UshCha15 Feb 2013 11:48 a.m. PST

If your rules are any good the system is suupress then assult. In the falklands a Pl Comander grouped all the MG's in one place then assulted the building at 90 deg to the MG's allowing them to get close before lifting the fire. This is the classic if it can be done, The trick is for the defender to cover what would be the weak side by an MG further back. This is the process of interlockinbg fire. This is were if yopu are lucky you use a Tank or mortar to "un-pin" these interlocks. The enemy may try to stay within 200 to 300m so you as per the chechens with the Russiians so your own artillery will struggle to engage the enemy without hitting you.

Im my opinion many rules tend to overestimate kill rates to troops in prepared positions by small arms and kill rates of artillery. Most killing is by gruts at short range in an assult against a suppressed enemy.

emckinney15 Feb 2013 12:33 p.m. PST

All, right, fess up, what's the link to the Flames of War video?

emckinney15 Feb 2013 1:09 p.m. PST

This is completely Flames of War-specific and not completely realistic, but it makes some good points about how to use various types of weapons: link

Sparker15 Feb 2013 1:21 p.m. PST

I would steer clear of Flames of War for now. It is extremely popular and has some things going for it but it will teach you some very bizarre tactics.

I would respectfully like to completely disagree with this statement. As with any ruleset, those ignorant of fire and manoeuver tactics are free to employ 'bizarre' tactics, but the rules allow, indeed encourage, fire and manoeuvre.

If you think of British doctrine, consider the movement phase as the 'advance to contact' the fire phase as 'winning the firefight' and the assault phase as, well, the assault phase..

Specifically, the command distance rules allow for a platoon to 'drop off' a base of fire, as non assaulting troops, who fired on the target at full ROF, to rejoin after the assault.

Naturally, where, unlike some rules, FOW is clear about the command level of the player, as a Company Commander, you tend to fire and manoeuvre by platoon, rather by section, but it is entirely feasible and I have done it several times. (Notice I didn't say successfully, but no ruleset can legislate for my innate tendancy to roll 1's!)

Lion in the Stars15 Feb 2013 3:51 p.m. PST

Mortars are my favorite tool in the box. I got very good at judging where to target the mortars to just miss my guys and pin the platoon I was going to assault.

And heavy mortars should be better at blasting HMG pits, what with FP4+… Then again, I haven't played since v3 released.

Just Jack Supporting Member of TMP15 Feb 2013 4:05 p.m. PST

"Platoons don't have commanders, they have leaders." I believe that's true for doggies ;) Marine platoons have commanders, though they were never referred to as commanding officers. I don't really have much to add tactics-wise for wargames, other than it's always seemed to me that our rules don't do justice to standard combat organization, i.e., main, supporting, reserve for C2 purposes, in order to maintain control and flexibility at as high an echelon as possible for as long as possible. As much as 'two up, one back' is mentioned, it's always cracked me up because you're ignoring Weapons Company/Company Weapons Platoons (sorry, started as a machine gunner). As often as not, in real life a rifle company was likely to have 1st Plt as main effort, 2nd and Wpns Plt (usually mortars and 1 MG, with other MGs attached directly to the rifle Plts) supporting (i.e. placing fire on the objective), with 3rd Plt in reserve, as it is to have 1st and 2nd Plt as main effort, Wpns supporting, and 3rd in reserve. With regards to rules, the idea is that this would be considered platoon bounds, efficient for company assault: one Plt w/Wpns is firing, one Plt is moving, and one is chilling out until needed. A lot of folks don't seem to understand that, from their perspective as the Company Commander, the main effort and support are no longer fully under your control. They're in good shape and thus have some element of operational flexibility, but all they can really do in this battle (game) is follow those orders because they are about to be engaged and thus not real hip to entertaining what they would term 'suggestions' from the Company Commander. If our plan is successful, the supporting fire works so well that the main effort practically walks onto the objective (relatively speaking). If we're not so successful, the main effort devolves to squad bounds, fireteam bounds, and even individual rushes, which sounds cool, and is sometimes necessary, but is a surefire way to lose effective C2, lose operational flexibility, and forward impetus. This is where the reserve comes to the rescue; a fresh body of troops moving as a Plt under the Plt commander's control at the Company Commander's discretion and direction. Each time bounds move down a level you are losing control and coordination of effort; the PC controls the Plt, fire is taken to force squad bounds, introducing friction as the PC now has one element (squad) moving and two holding and firing. As enemy fire becomes heavier the squads are forced to fireteam bounds, meaning the PC is now a cheerleader and three Squad Leaders each have one element (fireteam) moving and two holding/firing. When enemy fire continues, we devolve to individual rushes, in which the Plt now has 9 fireteams moving up one man at a time under the direction of Corporals and Lance Corporals. Much time is spent on this training to foster battle drill and individual/small unit initiative for this to be successful, but it will never be as effective as the main effort arriving as a Plt on the objective (don't get me started on limited objective attacks, phase lines, jump off points,etc…) with supporting and reserve elements all orchestrated by one man. I've seen some rules that boil this problem down to simply having (or at least encouraging) a resrve (higher command level, but take a look at Spearhead, though this requires written orders, a pain in the butt in my opinion). This still doesn't seem to model the slowing of movement and loss of control in the units under fire. My gripe is that I can't find a set of rules that simulate this, and so I play/watch/read about game after game in which a rifle company is essentially put on line and is able to move forward and successfully engage the enemy/take the objective. I'm not pointing fingers, I do it too because it works. The rules don't punish this type of general advance (which in reality would turn into a Company Commander's nightmare of having his entire force under fire and being directed by Corporals as opposed to him) or reward the proper 'echelonning' of forces to maintain as much C2 for as long as possible. My hat's off to the Lardies for their attempts to model battlefield friction, but the abstraction of 'maybe your platoon moves a little, maybe it moves normal, maybe it moves not at all, and if it didn't it's because of being under fire' doesn't really do it for me, I want something more concrete. I can't crack the code either; I've tried writing them myself but can't seem to come up with a system that doesn't end up simply halting all forward movement, and with a thousand modifiers to boot! Anyway, sorry for the ranting long post, but I think this has been a great discussion of small unit tactics and we'll see where this takes us. Jack

tuscaloosa15 Feb 2013 5:51 p.m. PST

There is something to be said for judicious use of carriage returns.

Just Jack Supporting Member of TMP15 Feb 2013 9:04 p.m. PST

Sorry, despite the length of the post, I was in a hurry and didn't proof read it and now enough time has passed that I can't edit it. Also, I just tried reposting and can't figure out how to use a 'hard' return to clean it up (all I'm getting is some gibberish looking like this: <P>). Despite its ugliness, I hope my post makes sense. Certainly I know what I'm trying to say, but I feel like I could put in another 1000 characters trying to clarify all my thoughts. Jack

Skarper15 Feb 2013 9:37 p.m. PST

Others can certainly disagree about FOW not being ideal for teh OP.

To clarify my objections – Besides the tendency of players to use weird tactics the absence of Opportunuty fire loses the essential flavour of WW2 combat. I know it's kind of there in other aspects of the rules but if I were starting out I'd want a set of rules with opportunity fire in there explicitly.

The other reason I'd avoid FOW for the OP is it's really a vehicle to sell models by the shedload and I think that detracts from the enjoyment of beginners who end up buying, building and painting far more than playing/learning.

I think he should start off with a skirmish set and individually based figures and then try FOW later if there is a group nearby.

John Thomas816 Feb 2013 3:28 a.m. PST

IABSM rewards proper infantry company tactics, punishes "tank parking lots" and massed infantry charges. And you can paint up a platoon a side with a tank or two and have a really good game.

Last Hussar16 Feb 2013 4:32 a.m. PST

For IABSM we operate the 2 tier system for defensive blinds. Defensive units are 'Hidden' (not on table). If they move/fire/are spotted they go to blind (you know there is something there, but not what).

If spotted or they fire again then they are revealed. Because usually the attackers end up coming off blind first -they don't get the 'hidden', so they start on the blind, and tend to be easier to spot – a defensive unit can often get 2 shots in before any return fire.

Also coming off blinds makes it harder to co-ordinate the attack, as all blinds move at the same time, but off blind they move when their leader or platoon card comes up, so not all your units move together. Additionally while the platoon is on the blind, it is one movement roll – off the blind each section rolls for movement, meaning that they can get strung out.

I sometimes put one or two sections up ahead of the main defensive line to 'trip' the attack, forcing them to deploy – one thing you read from WW2 to present is units deploying as soon as they come under fire, no matter how minor, because you don't know what you are facing.

nickinsomerset16 Feb 2013 9:28 a.m. PST

I play Panzer Marsch, KGN and BGK and use hidden movement etc. I find it makes the players think more about their own deployment, plans etc. A company will have to spend a little time getting platoons into position to assault.

It also allows them to use Recce for Recce and not just as another combat arm. Similar to Last Hussar above, units can be spotted but not always identified, so occasionally a German tank "observed" may initially be a Tiger, but could actually be a Pzr IV and a dug in HMG could be a 75mm Pak!

Tally Ho!

Martin Rapier16 Feb 2013 9:45 a.m. PST

"Platoons don't have commanders, they have leaders."

In the US Army, perhaps.

In the British Army platoons have Platoon Commanders. They do however 'serve to lead' as the Sandhurst motto goes.

Legion 416 Feb 2013 10:48 a.m. PST

I lead an Air Assault Rifle Plt and later a Mech Company (M113s) a long as I could get a Squad Ldr or Plt Ldr or any memeber of the unit on the radio … I could lead/command …

Sparker16 Feb 2013 1:18 p.m. PST

The other reason I'd avoid FOW for the OP is it's really a vehicle to sell models by the shedload and I think that detracts from the enjoyment of beginners who end up buying, building and painting far more than playing/learning.

Any evidence for this, Skarper?

Personally, I would have thought that producing the 'Open Fire' box for $80.00 AUD, which includes all the figures, vehicles and terrain for the suggested beginner's scenario, as well as the ruleset and scenario/painting guide, would suggest otherwise, at least for said beginners like the OP?

In the box they each side gets a COMPANY battlegroup of infantry/armour. The game/rules are COMPANY based. How is this encouraging the beginner to 'buy models by the shedload'? (More than any other ruleset, of course!)

nickinsomerset16 Feb 2013 2:53 p.m. PST

Martin, we do, however have Troop Leaders!

Tally Ho!

Cincinnatus16 Feb 2013 3:18 p.m. PST

Do you get enough troops (point-wise) in the Open fire box to be able to play the real scenarios or just enough to get you a taste of the game?

Just Jack Supporting Member of TMP16 Feb 2013 6:13 p.m. PST

Legion 4, With all due respect to you and your experiences, I have to disagree. The battalion commander, Bn XO, company commander, Co XO, platoon commander, or squad leader may be able to raise a subordinate element via radio, but my experience was that having comms was a lot different than exercising control over a unit in contact.

Like you I was squarely in the middle of the chain, and saw both sides of it, that is, higher screaming for a sitrep, need you tie in with 'x' friendlies to the west, need you to pass through 'y' friendlies, link up with 'z' friendlies at TRP 1, etc…, all while trying to do the same with my subordinate elements.

I ignored higher while trying to coordinate maneuver, CASEVAC, and supporting fires, while being ignored by units trying to hunker down, fall back, return fire, and/or assault through.

Certainly everyone's experiences in combat and how they viewed /perceived/processed/remembered them are different. I'm not trying to butt heads about what experience so and so has or which one is 'right,' only how each of our experiences (or expectations of combat by folks that didn't experience it) affects what we seek in a wargame, in this case regarding command and control.

For example, my personal experience was that if I needed a subordinate element to do something other than what it was already doing, then I needed to physically go to that unit and make it happen. In wargaming terms, this is why I love the Lardies' concept of 'Big Men,' and why I made the comments about proper tasking/echelonning of forces with regard to movement and combat tasks above.


Sparker17 Feb 2013 2:17 a.m. PST

Do you get enough troops (point-wise) in the Open fire box to be able to play the real scenarios or just enough to get you a taste of the game?

You get a British Armoured Squadron (with US Para rifle plt as Infantry support) of 830 points, and a LW Grenadierkompanie of 790 points.

Game sizes range from 500 to 3000, with 1500 'a good size for a 2-3 hour game'.

Legion 417 Feb 2013 7:08 a.m. PST

As you said Jack, many experiences in leadership/command are different … And I too have ignored higher to take care of something of a more immediate priority. And a lot has to do with individuals units' training levels, SOPs, experience etc. too … Which is not to say I have not had problems with troops out of commo, etc. … And in many cases, leading from the front was the way to get it done. Which is the method I usually favored. And was told I did that too much by highers on occassions when I was a Company Commander. And I too remember a lot of yelling from higher on the net as well. But again everyones experiences/perceptions/memories may and probably will vary … No headbutting intended … wink Now as far as gaming, I remember in high school and college, playing many wargames and C3, training, etc. very much came into play. The Germans in 1940 France had better training, moral ratings, etc., then the French, etc. … or the Finns vs. the USSR, etc., etc. … A good rules system should take all that into consideration.

lapatrie8817 Feb 2013 11:33 a.m. PST

Jack, Legion4,
The leadership challenge of conflicting needs of the situation on the ground, and the expectations of next higher tiers of command, is one of the dimensions that would be attractive to gaming this period.

Just Jack Supporting Member of TMP17 Feb 2013 12:09 p.m. PST

Legion4, Thanks, and no sweat. The reason I wrote the 'no head-butting' was because tone is hard to get across on the internet and I wanted to make sure you knew I wasn't getting worked up, I just like talking about this kind of stuff :-)

Latpatrie, Absolutely. In my mind, you can't have a great game without modelling friction/C2 under fire, which is why I'm not a fan of FOW (and others like it). I'm not knocking the rules, they're just not for me. I understand the abstractions in various sets of rules, but rules which let a player pick a unit that's currently in the middle of a field covered by interlocking machine gun positions and mortar fire and calmly issue those orders in the same manner as you would to a unit 5km behind the front line simply doesn't work for me.

I'm still messing around with something along the Black Powder model. I.e., a 'normal' unit can make four actions (like IABSM), but when activated you give it a Black Powder-style role, with modifiers such that the unit 5km to the rear is very likely to get all four actions, while the squad that's got two men down and is currently under concentrated fire is more likely to not get any actions this turn, but if you move the platoon commander (IABSM 'Big Man') over that's a 'plus' modifier which makes it more likely to get two, or at least one action this turn. If you were really crafty you could weight it so they'd be more likely to get one or two actions if they were trying to return fire then fall back, and more likely to not get any actions if you were attempting to stand up and close assault).

That's kind of my dream, except also it needs to have an 'interrupt/reaction'-type mechanism (I can't stand a tri-pod mounted MG locked on its PDF, under no type of pressure, simply watching a unit that got lucky and got it's 4 actions hop three hundred yards across an open field into close assault on the MG.

If you can figure all that out in something that doesn't have you consulting 86 charts per action, please let me know :) Jack

Sparker17 Feb 2013 12:47 p.m. PST

but rules which let a player pick a unit that's currently in the middle of a field covered by interlocking machine gun positions and mortar fire and calmly issue those orders in the same manner as you would to a unit 5km behind the front line simply doesn't work for me.

'pinned' units can't be given orders in FOW!

Have any of its legions of detractors actually played any games of FOW? Or at least read them?

Last Hussar17 Feb 2013 2:56 p.m. PST

Jack, remember that being under fire limits the number of sections a BM can issue orders to. Also use BM to remove shock, modelling the kind of motivation you may be talking about- additionally they add their level to the 'fire roll', and that only takes one of their actions: so a BM 4 can move to a unit, remove 2 pts of shock then direct fire at +4. (I mention this because I believe some people have read it as +1 per action he uses.

Last Hussar17 Feb 2013 4:11 p.m. PST

Jack- Have you tried TFL Troops Weapons and Tactics- A unit can only move when ordered by a Big Man, though it can fire on its own card. Its individual man level, with Gun and rifle groups being the maneuver units.

Legion 417 Feb 2013 5:31 p.m. PST

lapatrie and Just Jack, let there be do doubt when the Bleeped text hits the fan and higher is yelling on the net … thing can get real challenging … evil grin I remember as a PL, my Plt was moving thru the bush and came across the the BDE HQ. I was ordered by the Bde XO to set up a perimeter around HQ. At the same time my Co Cdr was yelling on the radio at me, asking where I was and what was I doing. Had a fun time with that one !

Just Jack Supporting Member of TMP17 Feb 2013 5:35 p.m. PST


In my posts I keep saying I'm not knocking FOW, and I certainly don't count myself among its "…legions of detractors." I've played it a couple times and watched it a couple more at the local game shop, and it's just not for me, nothing more, nothing less. The reason I keep referencing it is because it's touchstone in the WW2 gaming community that pretty much everyone is familiar with conceptually, i.e., one of the straightforward, IGOUGO types as opposed to the 'random'-type activation games. I keep bringing up IABSM on this side of the house for the same reasons, that they are sort of universally identifiable. Lord knows there are a virtual cornucopia of rulesets for WW2 gaming, but to me, these two are the flagships of their respective genres. As far as that goes, in my mind there is a third way – Crossfire/Force on Force in terms of the action/reaction mechanisms.

To address your point about units not being activated if they're pinned: is a unit pinned just because it's in the field of fire of an enemy unit? That is not my understanding of the FOW rules. My point is that I don't look at four turns' worth of firing as eight respective volleys between opposing forces, but one continuous firefight in which 'fires' each turn are simply the game mechanism in which we gauge the effectiveness of the fire for casualty/morale purposes.

So the unpinned unit activating in the middle of the field is, in my mind, actually under fire the whole time. In game turns, if our unpinned unit is able to activate and close the distance to close combat with the MG, in our FOW game the squad will never suffer the casualty/morale consequences of having charged across an open field at an unpinned MG.

I've had discussions with folks about a rules mechanic to factor in the 'continuous' (vice 'game turn') fire, but I've yet to see it pulled off in a set of rules. But I'd like to, which is why I'm posting on this thread. The closest I think the community has seen is opportunity or reactive fire. I think this is a step in the right direction, but does not model exactly what I was talking about, and leads to its own issues, usually of making it too powerful. I personally like Force on Force and NUTS! mechanisms in that regard.


Just Jack Supporting Member of TMP17 Feb 2013 5:49 p.m. PST

Last Hussar,
All this talk has had me thinking about working with IABSM some more, and working to modify it somehow for units under fire. Maybe something like more cards in the deck for units starting the turn not under fire. But I still have issues with the concept of the MG staring at the rifle squad waltzing across the field into close combat. I know about the abstract concepts of the MG being distracted, or jammed, etc…, but I guess it's just me. I want to know that the MG didn't fire because the crew was sleeping, not make up my own narrative to fit what happened on the table.

As always, finding/creating a set of rules that does that is the challenge. I think I'm like quite a few folks on TMP, that is, in perpetual search for the perfect set of rules, as defined by my own expectations and specifications that no one else in the world would agree with ;)

It is interesting that you mentioned TW&T; I've been staring at those for the past two years but haven't pulled the trigger. I'm also super intrigued with the Battlegroup Kursk/Overlord rules, particularly what I've read about the morale/event chits, which sound like a little bit of magic to me. But they're so d@mned expensive and, alas, I am but a man of humble means.


Just Jack Supporting Member of TMP17 Feb 2013 6:41 p.m. PST

The thing about the 'no return' post was that I previewed it and it had the gobbleydegook in it, so I actually went back to my post and took them all out…

We're on the same page regarding main/assault, supporting/base of fire, and reserve/pursuit, same exact concept. Your 'quick attack' is our 'hasty attack,' and if taken off the march, the first element in contact becomes the base of fire, that is, if we're travelling w/ 1st Plt in the lead and it's contact front, they become the base of fire. Contact from the flanks means the affected unit(s) becomes the base of fire. Pounded into us to maintain 360 degree security, but feed unit into the firing line until superiority for freedom of maneuver then the unengaged element(s) look to envelop.

I saw the same thing in field exercises regarding the reserve; except ours never got used because our attacks never bogged down in training!

I agree that doctrine/battle drill was probably not as developed as it is now, but I'd say by 1944 a lot of it was being taught/preached. If not fireteams per se, I think it was pretty universal that squads/sections could operate as a 'fire' group and separate 'maneuver' group. Even if not 'specifically' taught, my experience was that the longer a unit could operate as a whole unit (let's say, the assault platoon walking onto the objective), the better off your attack was going to go, but as defensive fires got heavier command devolved lower and lower (the assault platoon can no longer move as a platoon, so squad bounds, then down to our 'groups' discussed above, even down to the 'groups' not being able to move as 'groups,' but Billy laying down fire for Jimmy to advance), which can't help but slow things down and add friction in terms of getting subordinate elements to respond to orders.

What I mean by this is that the units in contact would do their best to carry out their duties according to "the plan," but if you looked at the situation and saw "the plan" was no longer as perfect as it was five minutes ago, it was almost impossible to get the units in contact to do something different. I don't mean totally unresponsive, but a lot of friction. The only thing I saw work halfway decently was a great signal plan if you had had the foresight to correctly guess the right possible reaction to a problem that hadn't occurred yet. I don't mean the standard green star cluster to have Wpns shift fire, but something like a "if I pop yellow smoke anywhere that means I've got things to the north and I need you in blocking positions to the west." Maybe I just wasn't that good, but if you briefed something like that and that situation actually unfolded AND you had the mental wherewithal to actually execute it, the guys would pull it off because it had been rehearsed. But that was like spotting a unicorn sexing a griffon feeding in a field of four-leaf clovers. If you'd studied the plan, analyzed the enemy sit, the weather, the terrain, and set it up to block the west, when it actually happened you needed the block to the east. Then you were thinking, I would have briefed east, but we don't have pink smoke ;)

I'm on board with the two-levels down approach, but some of my stuff I base lower than that to remove them as casualties instead of using markers. But they're not carrying out separate orders.

I actually have Crossfire, one of the first sets I bought (the other was Blitzkrieg Commander). I love the idea and concepts of Crossfire, but it hasn't worked for me. My father and I gave it about five tries and could't get it to work; we were too scared to do anything! We would sit there forever, (over)analyzing the situation, the angles, etc… We'd make a couple out of contact moves, then try to drop some smoke, and if that didn't work we'd just end up turning the initiative back over. We just were unwilling to walk into someone's field of fire, and so the games were always a stalemate. I never got to play with someone more knowledgeable/experienced, so maybe we were doing something wrong. But I'd have a boatload of terrain on the table, so I don't think that was it.

The other problem for me with Crossfire is that my old man passed so now I mostly play solo, and with the initiative/activation system it doesn't seem to work that well conceptually.

I'm totally with you on enemy strength/disposition knowledge. I bolt the Lardies' "blinds" concept onto everything.

Whew, I'm worn out and feeling a bit narcissistic after all these posts, but I want to answer everyone that took the time to pipe up.


Just Jack Supporting Member of TMP17 Feb 2013 6:45 p.m. PST

Sorry everyone, I have no idea why my previous post is blue…

That's an easy one man: tell him if he wants to know what you're doing he needs to talk to his boss's boss ;)


Lion in the Stars17 Feb 2013 8:06 p.m. PST

"In physical contact with BDE HQ, BDE 5 Actual instructed to form perimeter."

Translation: Get me the heck out of here!

Sparker17 Feb 2013 11:25 p.m. PST

To address your point about units not being activated if they're pinned: is a unit pinned just because it's in the field of fire of an enemy unit? That is not my understanding of the FOW rules. My point is that I don't look at four turns' worth of firing as eight respective volleys between opposing forces, but one continuous firefight in which 'fires' each turn are simply the game mechanism in which we gauge the effectiveness of the fire for casualty/morale purposes.

No you are right in the sense that to be 'pinned' a unit has to have suffered a 'hit' (not necessarily a casualty) from Artillery, Air or Mortars, or 5 from a small arms fire exchange.

In other words, when it comes under 'effective enemy fire' -which in British doctrine is exactly when an advancing section goes to ground!

And to address your need for the firefight effectiveness to not be equal, the pinned platoon fires at reduced effectiveness.

Time and again, with FOW, the ostensible simplicity of the rules mechanics elegantly hides a very realistic dynamic.

nickinsomerset18 Feb 2013 12:04 a.m. PST

"Have any of its legions of detractors actually played any games of FOW? Or at least read them?"

Yes and when I compare it to PanzerMarsch, KGN or now BGK it is too abstract, too much like a game of chess, but the games I have seen play have all been equal point, competition games!

One thing to remember is the classic "No plan ever survives contact with the enemy" No matter how a Coy/Plt plan is made the battlefield is very dynamic and all of a sudden 2 Plt which was to provide covering fire, is now the assault section and an enemy position that was not anticipated has appeared!

One thing after carrying out multiple section attacks over a couple of km it all tends to slow down a little!

Tally Ho!

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