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"Representing suppression and pinning in games" Topic

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Skarper02 Jul 2013 8:06 a.m. PST

I track ammunition for lMG34/42 and sMG34/42 and the easily portaged load does not last long if they fire at the maximum allowed rate. I also track Main Armament round for any tanks and they often run out of the minority types of ammo.

I'm not so keen to track the rifle ammo or Bren gun ammo in the same way because they never seem to fire very much and they could redistribute or get resupplied anyway.

I've had Germans have to break off an attack because MG ammo was exhausted, which is kind of what I wanted from my rather fiddly ammo rules.

Aldroud02 Jul 2013 9:09 a.m. PST

I've been giving it some thought on replicating it within game rules. Here's what I came up with in a feverish dream at 2 in the morning while communing with eldritch spirits (80 proof).

Trained troops roll a d6 for direct fire combat. A 4 or better is a close round, meaning it momentarily suppresses an enemy target. A 6 knocks down an enemy, forcing a casualty check AND counts as a suppression shot. If the number of suppression shots exceed half the total number of enemy targets, then the enemy unit is suppressed for a round.

This seperates casualties (which are historically low) from suppression (which is what usually happens).

Lion in the Stars02 Jul 2013 9:22 a.m. PST

@Aldroud: eldritch spirits are at least 150 proof; or those less than $20 USD a 750ml bottle, since cheap booze tends to lead to unholy hangovers. evil grin

For ultramoderns, a lot of the US troops are ammo-hogging, carrying 2-3x the basic load, with another several thousand rounds in the vehicle. 400 to 600 rounds per man, and that's just the individual riflemen!

I know that individual ammo loads were a lot lower for any fighting prior to the introduction of the assault rifle, but I still suspect that 2x the basic load was normal practice for troops at the front line, assuming that they could get it.

donlowry02 Jul 2013 10:00 a.m. PST

In my homegrown rules I assign a firepower rating to various weapons at various ranges, and when 1 squad/section/group fires at another I add up all the firing weapons' FP and divide it by a number representing the type/amount of cover (worst is just standing around in the open, best is behind hard cover). The resulting number is the chance (as a percentage) of pinning.

Now I think I will use John D. Salt's figure of 25% as the amount of fire needed to "keep the skeer on 'em," as Gen. Forrest would have put it, once they are pinned or suppressed.

Wolfhag Supporting Member of TMP02 Jul 2013 10:30 a.m. PST

I think realistically Suppression represents how much time is spent sticking your head up and firing and how much is kept keeping it down and hiding. Chances from direct fire small arms causalities are slim if the defender has good cover or at long range > 200m just as Mobius stated. I think a good rule of thumb is that all fire suppresses (to a greater or lesser extent) but rarely causes causalities unless caught in an ambush, open area with no cover or the enemy has a real observation advantage. See Ned Ludd's post. There are exceptions. In a prolonged engagement in Iraq a Marine Designated Marksman (enlisted Marine with proven long range shooting ability with an accurized weapon) got 16 confirmed kills at 600 yards without a scope. I've seen accurized AR-15's hold a 6 inch group at 600 yards with iron sights so it can be done. The stupid guys are always easy to kill.

Page 16 of this document PDF link
covers different levels of response to enemy fire which would cover a units increasing inability to observe, fire or move. I like the idea of suppression as "levels" rather than going into pinned, broken, etc. I'm using units composed of Fire Teams of 3-6 men. Each "level" of suppression means one man from the unit is ineffective (keeping his head down for the most part). Firepower is a sum of all of the "effective" men in the Team. Suppressed units attempting to move or increase their fire power over its available level to suppress the enemy take a causality check. Players can elect to take a higher level of suppression if they desire which helps avoid indirect fire causalities. Still experimenting for the right feel.

With indirect HE fire suppression is all about how many "bangs" the enemy is experiencing in a given amount of time, not just how big. Two 60mm mortars can deliver 20-30 "bangs" in one minute which would be enough to make a Platoon sized target hit the deck and bury their face into the ground.

Advancing Under Fire: Combat Commander was mentioned. This is the only rules system I know of (I'm sure there are others) that simulates small arms suppressive fire as a non-stop occurrence rather than a turn-by-turn die roll. Advancing under fire is done with small teams advancing while the rest of the unit (normally a Squad or Platoon) lays down suppressive fire so the others can move. In Combat Commander troop training and leadership play a big role whether the unit will attempt to move under fire or not. Studies have proven that a bullet coming within 3-5 feet of a defender (especially if it hits in front of him and kicks up dirt) suppresses him for 3-5 seconds. That's enough time for a Fire Team to advance 5-15 yards. We had three Fire Teams in a Squad and our Fire and Maneuver (Advancing under Fire) would alternate with two Fire Teams laying down suppressive fire while one advances under orders from the Squad Leader. Fortunately I never had to do this under fire.

Recovering from Suppression: I'm not sure it's really worth having a rule like this. When the shooting at you slackens you'll stick your head up and observe and maybe shoot back. If no one is firing you'll fire back or move. Exceptions could be poorly trained or motivated troops, concussive effective of HE, etc. What sets units apart is how they respond when they are fired at in the initial stages of a Fire Fight and having reserves to respond and help out. It's not just firepower and cover numbers. Training (drills) and small unit leadership come into play. I was in the Marine infantry in the early 1970's (Vietnam Era) and we continually trained on ambush / counter-ambush, fire & maneuver and final assault until it got to be boring. Everyone knew what to do. Fire Team and Squad Leaders directed us and helped maintain the appropriate amount of firepower, coordinate assaults, etc. While we had M-16's no one fired on auto as it was a waste of ammo.

This book goes into a lot of the psychological aspects of why people shoot, kill and what affects their morale: link

"The real role of small arms in combat" good info on exactly how small arms suppression works and why
PDF link

More realistic rules don't necessarily make the game more fun. Most war gamers don't have a real grasp of the nuances and effects of suppressive fire and performing attacks and are not interested. They can relate to one guy firing at another and whether he "hit" him or not and whether he killed him or not. I've experienced where real life rules put a constraint on the player's expectations of the game and they didn't enjoy it. You need to play to your audience or you'll be playing solo.

Thanks for reading,

Skarper02 Jul 2013 10:42 a.m. PST

Great post Wolfhag.

I agree about the last paragraph and we are never going to get this into mainstream commercial rules because it would slow it all down and make it 'boring'.

I aim for interesting and instructive rather than 'fun' so it is right up my street. And I am exclusively a solo gamer.

I read Wolfhag's second pdf – fascinating stuff – and was struck by the poor SUPPRESSION effect of the MINIMI. I'm guessing it's the 5.56 MINIMI they tested (since this calibre is the one in use by the British Army) and not the 7.62. Some armies are switching to the 7.62 and I wonder if it is any better at SUPPRESSION given the ammo load will be less. Does the 5.56 round drift off target or is the recoil effect somehow badly designed (like the early M14 on full auto)?

I heard somewhere that the l.MG42 can fire quite a few rounds before the recoil forces the aim off target. If true it would be an important factor. Bren guns were also very accurate I understand.

Milites02 Jul 2013 11:34 a.m. PST

I've dug up my Combat Commander rules and for all their faults they do a pretty good job of simulating most of the posters wishes. Units can go into IP (improved positions), if they roll on their tactical competency (TC). Once in IP they can only get out of it if they roll their aggression factor. Whilst in IP or hard cover they can elect not to fire back and be virtually immune (small percentage to represent uncertain outcomes). Two units in good cover can fire all their ammo at each other, and cause a pitifully few number of casualties. If you want real estate, you have to dig them out.

The supplement Battlefield Commander added needless complexity but the ammo tracking added a new dimension, especially for Warpack units that carried, on average, third less ammo than NATO. It suggested consumption rates were 20 rds per minute for rifles and 120 for Mg's (more for rounds during close assault)

MG's, due to range, accuracy and firepower, ruled the infantry fire fight, able to easily outshoot and 'pin' rifle wielding troops. The advancing under fire, IIRC, was dependent on the casualties suffered versus the original strength of the unit, so covering fire was effective as it reduced the chance of casualties. Suppression was a term used as a morale result, caused by enemy fire.

Shame the rules bogged down when it came down to the anti-armour fight and poor organisation seriously affected the time taken to play them. I once spent the better part of a day fighting a reinforced MRB versus a US tank company, with air support!

John D Salt02 Jul 2013 12:34 p.m. PST

Skarper wrote:

I read Wolfhag's second pdf fascinating stuff and was struck by the poor SUPPRESSION effect of the MINIMI. I'm guessing it's the 5.56 MINIMI they tested (since this calibre is the one in use by the British Army) and not the 7.62. Some armies are switching to the 7.62 and I wonder if it is any better at SUPPRESSION given the ammo load will be less. Does the 5.56 round drift off target or is the recoil effect somehow badly designed (like the early M14 on full auto)?

While I have the highest possible regard for Jim Storr, I simply cannot believe that even the Minimi Para is so inaccurate that it isn't more accurate than its firer at 500 metres. It is still less likely to be true in action than under range conditions, where stress decreases the firer's aiming accuracy and increases the uncertainty about the exact location of the target. Dr Storr is certainly very unusual for an infantryman in thinking that the LSW does a better job of suppression.

I think there is a bit of a bitch-fight in the British dismounted combat analysis community between the analysts who recommended the LSW in the first place, and can still produce figures to show what a great weapon it is, and the proponents of the Minimi, who tend to rely rather more on practical experience. For the view from the Minimi side of the debate, see this piece by David Benest, who was responsible for driving through the Minimi UOR despite having his job threatened:


For myself, I observe that practically every army that has ever adopted a heavy-barrelled assault rifle to fulfil the role of section automatic has changed its mind and switched to a real LMG later.

All the best,


Wolfhag Supporting Member of TMP02 Jul 2013 12:35 p.m. PST

Thanks Skarper

I've been working on a small unit war game on WWII in the Pacific. Getting close enough to a bunker to use flamethrowers and demo charges involved suppression. You could not kill everyone in a fortified position with small arms fire from a distance.

We practiced the "Blind, Burn & Blast" technique similar to what was used in WWII. Blind them with smoke and suppressive small arms fire, that lets the guy with the flame thrower get close enough – more suppression (YES – we still had flame throwers in the 1970's) then the guy with the demo charge does his work and blows the bunker.

I remember one of these exercises very well. One day we were the "Aggressors" defending the bunker/trench complex. I had an M-60 machine gun that day but no assistant gunner with about 500 rounds of belt fed 7.62mm blanks. First there would be a simulated prep arty barrage with a demo area set up 25 yards behind the bunker where a guy would set off pound blocks of C4 to simulate the arty. At a certain point we would pull back and they would do the blind, burn (with a real flame thrower) and blast with the dummy demo charge. Just before my Squad Leader gave the order to pull back my gun jammed and I was struggling to open the feed cover and unjam it. I told Sarge "Just a second" while I attempted to clear the jam. Not one of my brightest moments. About 7-8 seconds later I heard a loud "POP" just to my left at the bunker. When I looked over I saw a billow of white smoke with pretty white burning streamers arching up in the air over my head. Bleeped text they threw a White Phosphorous grenade rather than smoke! I immediately broke off the remaining belt of ammo, grabbed the carrying handle of the 60, jumped out of the trench and started running. I was amazed to hear the sizzling of the burning WP particles as they came down around me as I never really considered it. Fortunately I was towards the end of the burst radius and was able to avoid getting burned I guess I made my "saving throw". Just as I was clear of the WP and just past the bunker I hear a really loud roar as they hit the bunker with the flame thrower. I never considered how loud it would be on the receiving end but fortunately the bunker was between me and the flame thrower so it was a "NE" result. I didn't give it a second though as I ran by the demo pit because the exercise was basically over. As I approached it I saw the demo pit operator with a big grin on his face and immediately 3-4 blocks of C4 buried in the ground detonated about 5-10 yards away from me tripping me up, covering me with dirt and making my ears ring. I got up and kept running figuring what else could go wrong. Fortunately no one from my unit saw me and I was so embarrassed I didn't tell anyone what happened. I'm glad I never had to see any real combat.


RTJEBADIA02 Jul 2013 1:12 p.m. PST

For me the biggest question is whether or not the M27 IAR is actually working out.

Seems to me everyone was skeptical, then it got in the field and suddenly people approve of it… despite going against the general trend of

"For myself, I observe that practically every army that has ever adopted a heavy-barrelled assault rifle to fulfil the role of section automatic has changed its mind and switched to a real LMG later."

John D Salt02 Jul 2013 3:05 p.m. PST

As the Zen master said, "We'll see".

However, I do believe that taking the same action as has been taken many times in the past will produce the same results as that action has produced many times in the past.

All the best,


Milites02 Jul 2013 3:49 p.m. PST

I think Einstein had something to say about repeating actions and expected outcomes. As a teacher I see the reinvention of the wheel every couple of years, as what was not, shall now be, and what is, is history. I guess military establishments must also be plagued by this historical myopia.

Is the thinking that the M27 can suppress as effectively, but more efficiently, due to accuracy? Or is the M27 used like a DMR, with a full auto capability?

Lion in the Stars02 Jul 2013 4:03 p.m. PST

For me the biggest question is whether or not the M27 IAR is actually working out.

Seems to me everyone was skeptical, then it got in the field and suddenly people approve of it… despite going against the general trend of

"For myself, I observe that practically every army that has ever adopted a heavy-barrelled assault rifle to fulfil the role of section automatic has changed its mind and switched to a real LMG later."

Except the Marines are still carrying the SAW when they're in open areas. The M27 comes out to play clearing buildings, where it's faster to slice the pie.

It's not a case of replacing the SAW outright (barring the beat-to-hell oldest ones in the inventory that needed to be replaced by something anyway)

The M27 is arguably a full-auto DMR, since the Marines announced that the Automatic Riflemen will NOT be allowed to shoot the M27 for annual rifle marksmanship scoring.

Mehoy Nehoy02 Jul 2013 6:17 p.m. PST

That 'insanity' quote is often misattributed to Einstein. Rita Mae Brown wrote it in 'Sudden Death', and she paraphrased it from a Narcotics Anonymous text. Fun fact.

Martin, I like the idea of allowing more dice to increase the chance of a hit at the expense of ammunition. I might try that out some time.

Skarper02 Jul 2013 9:46 p.m. PST

My instinct is to favour a belt fed high rof full calibre MACHINE GUN over a magazine fed, low (effective) rof small calibre automatic rifle on the grounds of the testimony of WW2 and more recent veterans.

I was surprised by the MINIMI coming out so poorly because it runs counter to all the experience – however unscientific.

Even if it's correct, non-scientists mistrust science because it so often runs counter to what seems obvious. No matter how many boffins lecture the troops about the suppressive power of their LSWs they are still going to follow the advice of the old sweats who will say 'use a machine gun.'

An old friend who'd spent his career in the British Army always used to say the corporals are the most important men in the army – because when the chips are down everyone reverts to what their first corporal taught them and forgets all the clever stuff they did in later training.

If the troops don't believe the LSW/SA80 can suppress the enemy they might not risk engaging in firefights with it.

le Grande Quartier General Supporting Member of TMP02 Jul 2013 10:30 p.m. PST

Right Ninja :)
and notably, not from the AA texts, which, along with their lack of advice about machine guns, will kill less people anyway :)

Martin Rapier03 Jul 2013 2:40 a.m. PST

"I heard somewhere that the l.MG42 can fire quite a few rounds before the recoil forces the aim off target. If true it would be an important factor. Bren guns were also very accurate I understand."

iirc recommended bursts for MG34/42 were five rounds, three for the Bren. If anything the Bren was too accurate for an LMG, reputedly you had to wiggle it to stop all the bullets going through the same hole.

John D Salt03 Jul 2013 2:42 a.m. PST

Ninjasaurus Rex wrote:

That 'insanity' quote is often misattributed to Einstein.

Yeah, well, the internet is full of misattributed quotations, as Abraham Lincoln said.

All the best,


Martin Rapier03 Jul 2013 2:54 a.m. PST

"I know that individual ammo loads were a lot lower for any fighting prior to the introduction of the assault rifle, but I still suspect that 2x the basic load was normal practice for troops at the front line, assuming that they could get it."

Possibly, but the real problem is where do you carry it?

Some armies did issue bandoleers etc but I defy anyone to find somewhere in German webbing to put any extra ammo clips for a K98 than the basic 60 rounds in the pouches. You could put them in your pockets I suppose but they'd get dirty, or possibly stick some in the breadbag but they are then very incessible. Draping photogenic belts of MG ammo around your neck or carrying an ammo box would seem to be the only way. Perhaps the German emphasis on carrying MG ammo was that way for a reason!

British webbing is a bit better from a load carrying pov but you'd only get more rifle clips in by ditching the spare bren mags and grenades, which might be frowned upon. The British Army did have bandoleers on occasion though, plus Bren utility pouches etc.

I believe for US kit you had to wear a different belt depending on which weapon you were issued as the pouches were permanently fixed to them. The US did use various types of bags and bandoleers too.

Martin Rapier03 Jul 2013 2:57 a.m. PST

"Martin, I like the idea of allowing more dice to increase the chance of a hit at the expense of ammunition. I might try that out some time."

I claim no originality, iirc the current version of Command Decision does much the same thing. Every fire dice has the possibility of ammo depeletion on a '1', so blazing away at full ROF all the time is going to run you out of ammo fairly quickly.

Milites03 Jul 2013 11:52 a.m. PST

British webbing was far superior to the Germans, period. Greater dispersal of dead weight, greater load capacity and won't rot away. Thought Germans carried everything in their gas mask containers, well they did in Sven Hassel!

The M249 and M27 combo makes sense, but some sources say the M249 will be dropped for the M27, which makes less sense.

Skarper, don't the British Army operate the concept of the, 'strategic corporal' now?

Lion in the Stars03 Jul 2013 1:04 p.m. PST

The M249 and M27 combo makes sense, but some sources say the M249 will be dropped for the M27, which makes less sense.
The last reports I saw re: the M27 was that about 8000 SAWs were being discarded, but the other ~22,000 (or whatever the number is) would remain in inventory.

So it's sorta true that the M27 is replacing the SAW. But it's not replacing every SAW in the Corps.

Gamesman604 Jul 2013 4:07 p.m. PST

To somewhat state the obvious but a IMO not always considered point.
ANy set of rules are just a model of what they represent, they are not the thing itself and they only represent the parts of the actuality that the designer thinks are important. The problem is that there are certain conventions within the models that we use that have become accepted as the actuality. Now when new models (rules in this case) are created they use the old rules as the basis for their new models, so they end up modelling the models! SO we have accepted as important, concepts about things that may not be relevant to what we think we are modelling but are so ingrained as part of what games need, that they are perpetuated.
I think some aspects of the commonly accepted models are due as mentioned to the fact that many players want a certain kind of play. I would disagree that realistic rules need to be more complex. They often are because on one level, the designer looks at the actuality and see that there are more factors than included in most models and so they start trying to model the greater details, which generally bogs the action down in complexity. I think that more reality can be modelled simply but it requires looking at the actuality and coming up with new ways to model it. These can be quite simple as long as the results are authentic, I think it was Jim Webster who said he'd be happy flipping a coin if the results felt right. I think that touches on another reason why so many rules keep using the same sort of modelling for their rules. Players like gadgets and game mechanics. I often think when reading a set of rules, that the mechanics have become more important than the thing they represent.

Gamesman604 Jul 2013 4:17 p.m. PST

From reading the thread in one hit, some points that stand out, and from my own understanding;
-Fire is used to prevent the enemy from acting freely.
-Then keep them in place so that they can be neutralised by assault.
-This generally requires large amounts of fire power and ammo being expended.
-The weapons being fired plays a part as does the accuracy of the firers. Cover and defilade (something that isn't well represented on the table top) play a part for the targets.
-Not everyone reacts to suppression in the same way, something that effects one nationality may not do the same thing to another.
-Rules tend to make small arms fire to lethal,which is not realistic and this means that suppression often ends up playing an unrealistic part in rules.

Henry Martini04 Jul 2013 10:00 p.m. PST

Vis-a-vis your comment about hackneyed rules concepts, I have to agree, Gamesman6. For instance, there's that ridiculous old standby of wargames rules lore that still turns up in new rules for all periods, often the type heavily influenced by the Warhammer model: the uncompleted charge, usually involving a random bonus charge move designed to create tension by generating uncertainty about whether the charging unit will reach the chargees. I always imagine a Hollywood style half mile mass sprint. When the puffing and wheezing chargers don't make the distance perhaps they're saying 'Damn – nearly made it! If only we hadn't supersized at lunchtime!

I suspect that this all started with someone reading about 18/19th century charges stopping short, but failing to connect the phenomenon with the effect of the defensive fire of the receiving unit, and once it worked its way into one popular ruleset the contamination spread rapidly and has persisted to this day.

Skarper04 Jul 2013 11:27 p.m. PST

It is difficult to get any radical new idea excepted in rules. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't keep trying to find better systems that are closer to the reality we are trying to simulate.

I personally don't see the point of playing a wargame that doesn't simulate war. If you just want a good mental challenge then chess or backgammon fit the bill.

We do love our toy soldiers so many just want to put them on the table and roll a lot of dice. OK. If they have fun I don't object. BUT if I'm palying a wargame I want a WARgame not a warGAME.

The problem for me comes when some very simple and unrealistic game starts to dominate the hobby. It becomes THE way to do things and anyone breaking out of this mould will struggle to get an audience.

Hence we can quite easily write a system for small arms and MG fire that produces very few kills but lots of suppression but the average player will not 'get it'.

I also reject completely that embracing the complexity of the topic means you have to have complex rules.

Realistic rules do not have to complex anymore than unrealistic rules don't tend to get complex.

A lot of gamers like fairly complex rules systems, with a lot of detail to know and use to your advantage. It is part of the skill for them.

You can handle a lot of detail with well designed rules and smarter charts and tables. If you have armour factors for each aspect of an AFV and multiple locations with different armour on each facing then it makes for a lot of charts and tables. But you don't need all the AFVs data on one chart. Just having a card with the info on it saves a lot of trouble.

Many of the headaches I used to get playing old school rules sets was due to some woeful mechanics that were routine but couldn't be assimilated.

WRG 6the edition morale tests with a menu of factors to pick from.

Empire Napoleonics with its mass of fire tables and multiplication x .33, .60, .90 etc made it into a middle school maths quiz.

Martin Rapier05 Jul 2013 3:04 a.m. PST

Skarper, if you don't already have it, then Phil Sabins 'Simulating War' is an excellent introduction to conflict simulation.

The included games on WW3 battalion level attacks and company level street fighting also do an excellent job of modelling fire & movement, suppression and ammo consumption along with the tension between dispersion, concentration of effort and vulnerability which are a key feature of post 1900 warfare, as well as the influence of terrain particularly the mighty reverse slope. They are also very simple, my playsheet for Fire & Movement fits comfortably onto one side of A4.

Ark3nubis05 Jul 2013 3:33 a.m. PST

Just found these 2 pages (I'm sure Martin you are familiar with the first one…)




carne6805 Jul 2013 9:25 a.m. PST

The home brew rules I've been tinkering with assign a number of fire points to an element based on the type of weapon and training of the element.

Rifle element: 2-12"
Rifle+SAW element: 3-8"

The first number represents the # of fire points an element can apply at Range Band 1

The second number represents the size of the range band. The # of fire points an element may apply decreases by 1 with every range band to the target.

The Rifle+SAW element in the example above can apply 3 fire points to a target element in Range Band 1 (0"-8"), 2 in Range Band 2 (8"-16") and 1 in Range Band 3 (16"-24").

The Rifle element in the example above can apply 2 fire points to a target element in Range Band 1 (0"-12") and 1 in Range Band 2 (12"-24").

There is no roll to hit when a unit fires. The owner of the firing unit just places a chit on the target unit for each fire point. Hits are resolved in one of two instances:

A. When the player/owner of the element with chits on it chooses to act with that element

B. When a hostile element moves within close assault range (3") and LOS of the element with chits on it. In this case count cover as being one level worse.

The catch---the element with chits forced to resolve them when a element moves to close assault range and LOS, MAY IMMEDIATELY, if it survives resolving the chits, fire at the element which forced it to resolve them.

In either case chits are resolved in this manner.
Roll 1 die for each chit on the element.
D6 in the open
D10 in Light cover
D20 in Heavy cover
On a result of 1 the element is eliminated, any other result is a miss.

At the end of each turn, remove 1 chit from each element that has 2 or more chits applied but never the last one. This represents the first incoming rounds before the target element takes cover but also forces players to maintain a base of fire to keep the enemy's heads down.

In essence there is no rule for suppression, the player must decide whether or not to risk using an element with chits on it. The suppression rules are all in your head.

donlowry05 Jul 2013 11:26 a.m. PST

In essence there is no rule for suppression, the player must decide whether or not to risk using an element with chits on it. The suppression rules are all in your head.

The problem with that is, the player/commander is always in control, whereas in real life the commander/leader might be willing to risk it, but the troops aren't!

Gamesman605 Jul 2013 12:47 p.m. PST

This plays on an issue that a lot of rules try to cater for and leads to things being gamey or overly complicated. That's the desire for many players wanting to play/control all roles, from grunt up to overall battlefield commander.

I think that ups complication and forces a need to create extras that could be by passed…

carne6805 Jul 2013 9:51 p.m. PST

whereas in real life the commander/leader might be willing to risk it, but the troops aren't!

That was my first impression the first couple of times we played, but after a while, players got pretty gun shy. I am toying with the idea of adding victory conditions predicated on force preservation to encourage players to operate more cautiously.

Wolfhag Supporting Member of TMP07 Jul 2013 12:04 p.m. PST

We play a miniatures version of Tarawa with a player commanding a Marine Rifle Company. The biggest problem for the Marines in the first stages of the battle was ammo supply (among other things). We simulate that by the player getting a resupply of ammo each turn from the Regimental Supply Depot to the Company HQ where all supply levels are tracked off board. To increase his chances of receiving more supply he can have his leaders making supply runs getting a positive DRM and also assign Rifle Squads to be making supply runs during the turn too. However, the Rifle Squads and leaders will not be available for offensive operations/combat during the turn. We've tweaked the re-supply so there is always a shortage of what the player would really want so he needs to plan his attacks and offensives are limited by available supply. In the initial landing it's about all he can do to hang onto the beach head. Each turn is 4-5 hours but the Marine player can continue attacking as long as he wants until he runs low on ammo. Depending on the Command/Control for the Battalion the Rifle Companies may or may not be able to coordinate their advance. If not coordinated their flanks may not hook up and leave them vulnerable for Jap counterattacks and infiltration. Jap counterattacks occur randomly at different strength levels. The more the Marines attack the more the Japs counterattack. The Japs control the night turns with the Marines on the defensive and not moving but each Rifle Company being subjected to a differing number of probes, infiltration attempts and Banzai attacks. If the Marine player presses his attacks too much and runs low on ammo he'll have a hard time responding to counterattacks. LMG/HMG, arty and mortars can roll additional dice expending additional ammo and are key for suppression and stopping counterattacks. We've been able to tweak the rules and ammo supply to get close to historical results. There are also random events which include a hit on the supply depot reducing all Marine supply, ambush of supply runs, Amtracks delivering additional ammo, and officers commandeering supply from other Rifle Companies. We track small arms, flame thrower, grenade, demo charges and arty/mortar ammo.

We have three levels of causalities for the Marines: KIA, WIA and WW (Walking Wounded). WIA need to be evacuated using another Fire Team for the entire turn. At the end of a turn if they are not evacuated to the Company HQ there is a chance they can become KIA (Corpsman modify the die roll). WW simulates superficial wounds, battle fatigue, heat stroke, etc. A WW Fire Team can stay at the front in a reduced capacity or spend one turn at the Company HQ and return the next time fully recovered. Sometimes tough decisions to make. Rifle Platoons ability to press an attack slowly degrades throughout the turn and sometimes needs to spend a full turn recovering, resupplying and the leaders searching the rear areas for replacements.


UshCha08 Jul 2013 11:33 a.m. PST

Vert interesting thread this. I have been giving it more thought and have come to some conclusions.

Pinning? Why do you need a rule? In MG rules it would be possible to pin without resort to rules. Take an over simplification.
A group of elements could be behind a small hllock say 3 ft high which is hard cover with lots of space around it. They are being fired on from a range of angles from the front. They could sit behind this hump and not be hit by small arms but should they venture out of the dead ground the act of moveing out would make them vulnerable to fire and restrict movement as they woud be suppressed before they could escape. Pinned in the literal sence. They may be able to return fire from the top of the bank as its hard cover and could change fireing positions so they would suffer little if any suppression, dependant on the weight of incoming fire. Ergo it would be be pined. The not very aggresive ones and others wold be prepared to take the risk. If it really was "pinned" their escape will fail,a s they will not be keen on doeing much else.

No need for moral throws as the player makes the morale decisionm. In many cases, not all, morale rules are used as a prop for poor game design.

With regard to ammo supply you are allowed to use a GPMG type weapon as a sustained fire weapon provided you allocate 3 extra men who will carry the extra ammo and spare barrels. However while carrying it they cannot shoot and need to dump the ammo next to the appropriate suppot weapon which cannot then move and remain a Sustained fire wepon.. Not perfect but seems good enough without excessive paperwork while trying to keep a mental grip on a full company doeing fire and maneouver.

Wolfhag Supporting Member of TMP08 Jul 2013 9:30 p.m. PST

I'm going to be trying out a system where firepower is rated as Intensive, Heavy, Light and Harassing. It will depend on the raw firepower of the unit, range and frontage covered. Depending on the defending units rating as Elite, Veteran, Trained or Green will affect the level they can respond to fire, observe, return fire and move using a chart (simulated suppression pinning, observing, etc) initially responding to fire. There will be a die roll for initial causalities but not a great chance. You could say the initial burst at a target is a "Killing Burst" (fair chance of some causalities)and once they seek cover all fire is basically "Suppressive Bursts" but with a very small chance of causalities. I feel that when a unit initially gets fired upon they are going to go to ground seeking available cover to minimize causalities and try to observe and return fire (ambushes would be different). I think the most important aspect of how they respond would be based on their training (good training breeds confidence), not necessarily morale although the two are related. Unless in a structure they can be in an Improved Position (seeking available cover but observing and returning fire) or Full Cover (staying out of LOS, observing occasionally and not returning fire). Units in IP will attempt to lay down suppressive fire so they can Fire and Maneuver and advance on the enemy. Units in Full Cover are waiting for the attacking fire to subside or friendlies to lay down suppressive so they can maneuver. While in Full Cover there is no chance of causalities from direct small arms fire as they are not exposing themselves to fire back at the enemy (a desired effect I want in in the game but heresy for some I'm sure). Units that are in IP and/or attempting to move will take a causality chance roll. The defender should be attempting to pin down the attackers (putting them in Full Cover or Improved Position) using the minimum amount of small arms firepower while calling in indirect fire on the attackers who are stationery. Having units in Full Cover or IP and using info from Document WO 291/471 gives a good representation of how firepower coverage, cover and causalities could be worked out.

If this works right it should speed up the game because of less die rolls (no rolling for suppression, pinning or morale). You'll need some type of method to track ammo usage though. One of the goals is to not let small arms fire dominate causalities and enable units to hunker down in Full Cover for extended periods of time without being eliminated. I think a system like this has some good abstractions that can simulate reality and could speed up the game. Comments and suggestions appreciated.


Skarper08 Jul 2013 10:10 p.m. PST


I think in a game where casualties matter to the player either because they are roleplaying well or the scenario will penalise them for taking too many losses it could work for PINNING but not for SUPPRESSION. Troops who are suppressed can't fire effectively – so no overwatch etc.

It'd be unrealistic to allow a player to choose not to have his units hunker down when fired at – because it gives too much control.


I've just been modifying my own rules to reduce the chances of killing/wounding targets who are PINNED/SUPPRESSED while at the same time making it wery easy to keep these 'hunkered down' units suppressed. I've run throough aa couple of short games and not had any glaring problems. It's much easier for an attacker to make progress now if they have enough troops/FP etc.

I think tracking ammo for small arms is going to be a problem. MGs etc I already do track but small arms and SAWS that use the same rifle ammunition and never fire that much I just allow unlimitied shots. They are usually all eliminated before they would run out of ammo anyway!

UshCha08 Jul 2013 11:09 p.m. PST

I was not advocating getting rid of supression rules, only stating that showing that pinning rules are uneccessary in a well balanced model.

With regard to the issu on ammunition supply. In reality the ammo usage needs to be well understood. Given that a short burst of fire puts heads down and then can be kept down with a lower rate does not meean lower for a bound length. Assuming the burst for sake of argument is 30 seconds than the rate halves to keep heads down for the next 2 min then the most ammunition is being spent at the low rate. In our trime marching analysis a bound is quite long and does not reflect accurately ammo expenditure in the real world. Pewrsonally I have not found at the level we play (company and occationally above0 that the current un-restricted approach ahs been unacceptable.

Skarper09 Jul 2013 12:04 a.m. PST

OK – I see. Excuse my confusion.

Firing even WW2 weapons at maximum rapid fire rate the riflemen would be out of ammo in about 2 minutes. So they obviously don't do this.

John D Salt has a Nugget article with a lot of analysis and he concludes that infantrymen in WW2 can fire for about 5 minutes before running out of ammo. But they almost never do run out unless out of supply for 24 or more hours of heavy combat.

It's difficult to track ammunition for too many units. I have an 'X OUT' rule for SW and tank guns that means on a 6 (sometimes 5 or 6) dr (made as part of another 2d6 DR) you have X'd OUT the weapon and have to reload, change barrel or replenish the ready rack. This reduces your chances of being able to fire again until the X Out is recovered. I don't like absolutes in my games so while the chance may become small it ia always possible.

I could extend this to infantry units in some form but so far just don't think it's worth the effort. So far it only really seems to impact the German sMG42s, which run out of ammunition unless on the defence when they can stockpile far more than they could ever carry.

I always try to keep in mind the German paradigm that an infantryman will only have a very short period of time – seconds at best – to engage a target before it takes cover and is all but impossible to hit. This led to the design of the MG34 with it's very high rate of fire (as I'm sure all of us know).

Perhaps we should give our little lead men credit for some fire discipline and deem that fire at a lucrative or high priority target uses rapid fire and fire at a well-protected target just aims to keep their heads down and hence uses very little ammunition.

Ark3nubis09 Jul 2013 5:38 a.m. PST

Wow, a lot of response to this thread;

@ Henry Martini "quote…While pinning is generally regarded as an effect appropriate to games set in the 20th century onwards, I think skirmish games are an exception…"

I concur, and it is entirely feasible that troops pre-20C in a loose formation without the more rigid constraints of a formed unit and immediate superiors would naturally 'take cover' or dip down when shot at, thus exhibit the effects of pinning/suppression we are attempting to represent, something that Napoleonics or other similar period systems would not need to represent.

"…The title of this thread is ambiguous, and could just as easily refer to the on-table denotation of the effect. For instance, in the context of the Australian frontier, an authentic option is to use a base with one or more spears stuck in it …"

Indeed, and as I have posted to several boards, including the Zombie board, I'm just delighted that nobody has said that, as zombies will be unaffected by incoming enemy fire in any way other than if they are physically hit, that this entire thread is a totally mute point.

@ Wolfhag It seems to me that, with a wide variety of factors and two key groups of parameters (1: type of fire as in light, harassing etc) and target ability (Vet, trained etc) you could do with a similar table as used by the Battlegroup Normandy that they use to resolve suppressing fire (not aimed fire) on a target. You would have to form a table with the veteran etc along the top, and firing type down the side and then cross reference the two. Modifiers as you mentioned would add or subtract as relevant, and then apply the result in the relevant box. I think this could be a good way to get the results you want to achieve maybe?

I am now converted to the differences between Pinned and Suppressed. Pinned in about the amount of fire on a unit in such a way for that unit to not want OR be able to move from their current position so as to avoid taking casualties unnecessarily.

Suppressed is more about the unit being eroded in terms of will to fight and resulting in a severe drop in combat ability down to the point of Nil. A Pinned unit may also be unable to fire back also, but that doesn't mean they are in any way unwilling to fight once the fire has lifted, unlike the Suppressed unit that are more than likely to not do anything.

I think there is too much talk of trying to not have markers or reminders on the table of who is suppressed etc and by how much. Is it really entirely possible to try to model such a complicated thing as combat and not have markers required (unless all that are playing have a very good memory of who is in what state? Even down to lying the models down on their side to represent X, Y or Z effects is still a method of marking a unit's state.

AS for keeping track of ammunition, you could go to any degree of depth with that one. You could do a man by man, squad/section by squad/section or Platoon by platoon tally. A simple one or two stage ammunition roll as used in Necromunda would likely be a great mechanic.

Wolfhag, would that be good way for you to keep track of ammunition? Squad X have an ammo rating of 5. They then, when firing at full rate (2D6) or normal aimed fire (D6), have to roll the dice, results any of a 6 mean the unit has dropped down to 'Low-ammo' status and therefore have an ammo rating of 4+. Again firing on normal or full rate or whatever would mean rolling the relevant amount of dice again. Rolls of a 4+ on any would mean the unit can do only the lightest amount of firing (ie: so low they are unable to fire effectively at all) The likes of ammo trucks and ammo stores would therefore become really important features of the battle. OK, the above method might not be the best, but would that be a good way to represent ammunition?

@Carne6 I like the rules ideas you have there. I imagine that your proposals would apply to multi based models akin to FoW infantry bases?

Either way, rules should IMO have an outcome of the majority of casualties are caused by artillery and indirect fire, and by assault if it ever occurs (including the likes of flamethrowers if they manage to get close enough. Small arms should only really kill a unit caught in the open and with nowhere or time to take cover, and thus should only provide the pinning effects on the enemy sufficient enough to allow an assault element get in to contact.

Hope that helps,


Gamesman609 Jul 2013 6:14 a.m. PST

I think that it is a natural human reaction to hide from a threat, The Freeze that lies between fight or flight. As such I am sure we can find examples pre 20th century of people in combat hiding, taking cover and being suppressed, the highlanders hiding behind the wall at Culloden for example. It would seems to me that formations and tactics and training for since the beginning were to over come this natural response. Of course a more strict definition of it become easier once firearms are able to achieve a high rate of fire. A bonus being that the missiles are in effect invisible and so hiding becomes a better option that trying to run away!
A thing that most rules seem to work from is that closer targets are easier to hit than further ones. When not in combat this is perfectly sound, however in combat, threat and stress decrease performance, and threat and stress increases the closer the enemy is. So the "effect" of close range could well be lower, as the fact that both side are likely to be looking to keep themselves in cover. Does anyone know of rules that consider this? I just wonder if range bands for small arms become largely irrelevant, as diminishes over range, and stress diminishes accuracy at close range.

Just some more thoughts!

donlowry09 Jul 2013 9:22 a.m. PST

In terms of actually hitting an enemy, range may not be all that important, as you say. But as for the psychological effects, I think it would. Someone shooting at you from 300 yards/meters away, whose bullets are spraying all around the general area, won't effect you as much as someone firing from 50 yards/meters away, whose bullets are whipping past your head only inches away!

Wolfhag Supporting Member of TMP09 Jul 2013 9:43 a.m. PST

From what I've researched even the experts cannot agree on a definition of suppression. Check out this document: PDF link

Look at page 16-17 of the document where it has different definitions. Personally for game terms I like definition #4.

@ Arknubis: I've drafted a chart that covers observing, firing and moving for levels of training and level of incoming fire. The more a unit fires the more they expose themselves to a potential causality when firing from IP but the more firepower they can put out. It does not involve die rolls but could if you wanted. Leaders can influence to an extent.

@ Skarper: Regarding ammo supply. In island battles in the Pacific small units were able to make supply runs to keep front line units pretty well supplied but they did have to conserve as it was not unlimited. Basically there is an ammo "depot" at the Company HQ behind the main lines and small arms ammo expenditures are in increments of 125 rounds. The Company HQ is resupplied at the start of each 4-5 hour turn. However, when an Assault Team attacks (1-10 men)they have a limited amount of ammo they can bring with them. The flame thrower can fire only once and then needs to go back to the Company HQ to refill and may not be ready until the next 4-5 hour turn. Rifle Teams carry one bandoleer (88 rounds) for an M1 Garand per Rifleman (5 in a Team) and the one BAR carries 5x 20 round magazines so basically up to 600 rounds for a Fire Team (that's the pre-1944 Marine TOE) plus up to 12 grenades. If counterattacked while on an assault they don't get help from the rest of the Squad and are on their own. The Demo Man carries 1x 25 pound demo charge or 2x 12.5 pound charges. When ammo starts getting low at the Company HQ the Platoons will go over to the defensive (end their turn) at which point the Japs perform a series of counterattacks (that works well for solitaire play). When all units of a Rifle Company cease operation the 4-5 hour turn is over. So a turn is a random amount of activity within a specified amount of time. The amount of activity depends on enemy resistance, supply and friendly causalities. Also the success or lack of success of the Platoons on your flanks. If they get held up so do you or a gap forms that will be infiltrated through. It seems to reflect the "friction" of combat pretty well. Push too hard and you'll get overrun from a counterattack.


UshCha09 Jul 2013 11:24 p.m. PST

I have looked at random ammunition run out but in my mind is is not a good idea. Basically a unit on an attack can run out on its firest round os shooting. This faiuls as it is unlikely. In additiom for me any a game must fall in the set of interesting games. In a carefully crafted challenge is rendered eithet to easy or impossible in is of no interest. On occation it may be real but not a game that is interesting.


Your intrpretation is correct. However we do not need a state of pinned as any unit trying to "escape" a pinned will be subject to sufficient fire he will eithet have to run back to cover or be exposed to even more suppression In that case he woiuld soon become easy meat for an assult.
In our units a fully suppressed unit is capable of minimal offensive action and can easily be assulted. However a fully suppressed unit even in the open cannot be eliminated except by assult. We do this to stop the ("my (Tiger/Abrams) stands here and MG's the squad in the trench till they are all dead" syndrome. The crew may get out and assult the trench (as was anecdotaly done in the arab/israeli 6 day war) but that is different and still has some risk.

On our rules, either here or via e-mail (its in the rules or I can sully it) we would love feedback good or bad as long as its constructive. If you are interested, even if not a player we are working on other things like engineering. This is proably not for the average players as it requires the game to be more simulation than most folk want but comments from others are always interesting and can make thins better.

On thing I would stress to Ditto or others you need to set up scenatios either oin the table or in your head to which you know what the answer is or should be. Then play the scenario through the rules to see if that answer is within the range you expected. For assults for instance the results approximate a normal distribution. Most of the time you ger very close to expectation and only occationaly an adverse result.

Personaly I hate buckets of dice and prefere the weand often say model, do most of the work. The other guy should be sweating as where to go next not what rule to invoke;-). Thats why not having a PINNED rule not wanted. The simple rules should allow him to realise like his metal mates he is pinned and movement is death or serious injury. It is near impossible to make a good general bad and definitely impossible to mak a bad general good. And that goes down to the last metal (or plasic man in your army). The best you can do is make him react approprately to fire.

What has not been considered is our implicit assumption that troops that are tired, have had some bad experiences and are running low on ammow (we lump it together), tend to want not to do/be incapable of doing what they may when "fresh".

Gamesman610 Jul 2013 9:08 a.m. PST

My point is that at close range, people will be finding it harder to put down accurate fire, as the stress levels are increasing and the nature of the fire being delivered is going to affect you more greatly. Also if previous mentioned studies are accurate and based upon observation and reading round passing with 5 feet are enough to produce a possible suppression. Shooting at greater distances with less stress this effect is equal (in game terms) to producing the same result at closer ranges with greater stress.
I think we are in some agreement.
in affect I am suggesting that rules where we have different bands of effect scores based upon range are largely pointless, as longer range will have more time and less stress, closer range less time more stress, the benefit of being closer, to the targets you are try to hit, suppress, are nullified by the fact that psychological factors increase! When factor in the battle conditions one only needs to really consider is if something is in range. Avoiding complication is something I am keen on doing ;)

donlowry10 Jul 2013 3:29 p.m. PST

I take your point, but those psychological stresses would affect the target unit as much (or more than) the shooting unit!

Martin Rapier11 Jul 2013 4:00 a.m. PST

"I have looked at random ammunition run out but in my mind is is not a good idea. Basically a unit on an attack can run out on its firest round os shooting."

Yes, sadly this is a fundamental problem with that mechanism with otherwise has the merits of simplicity (vs the bean counting approach).

The deterministic approach used in Phil Sabins 'Fire & Movement' is an interesting compromise as it models internal ammo redistribution in the unit. Some of my regular group don't like it as it requires them to think about whether to fire or not.

A compromise for random ammo usage is to have a 'pool' of reserve ammo allocated at unit/formation level which can be used up by ammo depletion rolls before it impacts units performance. e.g. battalion X has an ammo pool of 4, depletion roll per platoon is a natural '1', player fires a six platoon salvo and manages to roll three 1s, they can just take them off the ammo pool, reducing it to one.

This is the mechanism used (at Corps level) in VGs 'Hells Highway' and it works very well.

Actual metrics for depletion probability and pool size depends what level of game you are interested in. Gives all those supply trucks something to do anyway:)

Ark3nubis11 Jul 2013 4:14 a.m. PST

Not that I am particularly plugging that mechanism (one that I just thought of on the spot at the time of writing a few days ago) but models on an assault may be allowed to ignore the first failed roll (bit like expending Stubborn in WAB) so there could be easier ways to amend that rule. If there's a one in 6 chance (or whatever the relatively low chance roll is) then that would make it very unlikely that they would run low as you describe (fear) above. (I would agree a legitimate fear)

The alternatives (ones I don't mind doing myself) would be as you say, ammo allocation/bean counting, that is then distributed to the sections/squads as required. Each section would have an amount of ammo counters to use up (or points allocated on paper)

Funny how this thread has evolved from the original 'Pinning and Suppression' of unit on to ammo supply, gotta love the TMP…

John D Salt11 Jul 2013 7:36 a.m. PST

Martin Rapier wrote:

Gives all those supply trucks something to do anyway:)

And the Carrier Platoon!

I suspect that one of the unstated reasons Panzergrenadiers outperform "leg" infantry is that the Grennies can effortlessly carry thousands of rounds on theor wagon. Which of course is why they can have 2 or 3 leMGs per section.

All the best,


Gamesman611 Jul 2013 7:54 a.m. PST

That was rather my point, opposing units getting closer to each other will be under more fire, will be seeking more cover because of it, or just seeking more cover as neither side would be willing to expose themselves to enemy fire, supposed or actual.

Martin Rapier11 Jul 2013 8:29 a.m. PST

"models on an assault may be allowed to ignore the first failed roll"

That is what I do for limited ammo weapons in tactical games already (.e.g. 2" HE), the first throw is 'low ammo' which essentially has no effect, the second is then 'ammo depleted'.

Unfortunately it necessitates tracking multiple ammo states for each base, which is why I only do it for a few key bases.

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