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"Resolving firefights en masse?" Topic

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doctorphalanx22 Jul 2013 4:15 a.m. PST

The very interesting TMP thread TMP link on representing pinning and suppression and the ensuing discussion about firefights has made me wonder if firefights could be resolved en masse in the hex-based quickplay rules I've begun planning. The idea is presented in a little more detail on my blog. link

I'm trying to get away from the 'element A fires at element B' approach and had already decided to conduct close combat along the same lines that Assaults are conducted in Square Bashing, i.e. an en masse totalling of element factors. Could a similar mechanism be used to conduct mass firefights where elements are not necessarily contiguous, and is this already used in other rules?

KatieL22 Jul 2013 6:32 a.m. PST

Interesting idea -- that you could have an ongoing pin ability. Presumably squads with (say) two MGs can pin two enemy units.

You could, in fact, give each unit named pin markers (named with the pinning firer so they can be returned) -- they put them on a target and just leave them there. If the target unit moves, they re-evaluate if they're valid targets and if not, pick a new one to get the marker.

A British section gets a "PIN 2" for the Bren and a "PIN 1" for the rifles, a German PzGren unit gets 2x "PIN 3" for the MGs..

Pinned units can move, but have to be motivated to overcome the current pins on them… if they (say) leave cover during their turn and total pins exceed cover, they take hits…

It's worth looking at further, it could fly really nicely. It might end up having the same sort of effects that lines of fire have in crosssfire, where players have to make choices about taking the damage or finding a new plan.

Also; Several people in another location were discussing something similar about C18th units having automatic 'zone of control' like attacks on units which come within musket range.

doctorphalanx22 Jul 2013 7:29 a.m. PST

I would aim to keep the mechanism as simple as possible because I want to fight large battles in a short time and I no longer have the patience for too much detail!

I guess the idea is like an automatic ZOC and could be used to 'pin' all engaged elements, at least initially. This is, of course, more of an issue for the attacker than the defender. I would imagine that elements could 'pull out backwards' as in Crossfire, but I like the idea that any further forward movement would have to be prompted.

Pinning, though, would be only the first stage. The aim would be to suppress and then assault. Following discussion in the other thread, I am wondering if small arms firefights should only ever lead to pinning and suppression, and that close assault should be necessary for elimination.

This would be a rather radical, broad-brush approach, but it might give a better representation of a firefight than rules which are driven by allowing for exceptions.

Col Durnford22 Jul 2013 7:36 a.m. PST

This is sounding very interesting.

Aldroud22 Jul 2013 9:45 a.m. PST

How about a defined direction of fire or a fire lane. If an enemy unit enters a fire lane, defined by a direction and as wide as the base unit establishing it, then the base unit gets a free shot on the enemy unit, results applied immediately.

Example: Squad establishes a fire lane along a town lane. Enemy squad tries to cross the lane to get a better tactical position. First squad gets a free shot when the enemy tries to cross. If enough enemy are hit/wounded/suppressed, then the movement fails and enemy unit retreats back to cover. Otherwise, the enemy unit finshes it's move and conducts whatever post-shot-at clean up is necessary.

doctorphalanx22 Jul 2013 10:03 a.m. PST


Automatic reactive fire is an interesting idea. I'm keen on mechanisms which run themselves rather than having the player-general personally aiming each shot.

John D Salt22 Jul 2013 11:16 a.m. PST

Treating defensive fire as something triggered by defending elements' extended ZOCs is a mechanism that works well in Victory Games 'Panzer Commander' and SPI's 'Raid!'. In both cases the fire is not entirely unlimited -- in 'Panzer Commander' it depends on making a troop quality roll, and in 'Raid!' it is available only to MGs, and only an arc depending on their facing.

It strikes me as a convincing mechanism, because infantry are generally so good at hiding, and infantry weapons so very capable of rapid fire, that the amount of aimed fire in a firefight probably depends more on the rate of target exposure than on the number of weapons or amount of ammunition available to shoot.

From the point of view of tactics, having automatic defensive fire over their frontal arc for elements occupying fire positions encourages real-life tactics insofar as it rewards an all-round defence, and punished attackers who put too many elements "in the shop window".

However, I do not regard firefights as things that go on for protracted periods, at least if a battle hasn't hopelessly bogged down. For a start, as I keep pointing out, people would run out of ammunition. For another thing, I see "winning the firefight" -- which you are supposed to do quite quickly -- as a phase-change event -- once the firefight is won, it tends to stay won (and this of course gives point to cunning German tactics like the "silent MG", which deliberately withholds fire until the enemy thinks he has won the firefight, and might then offer a juicy target by moving forward too confidently).

It would be interesting to know what time and ground scales toy have in mind, because I think it might be possible to arrange a game sequence based on Rowland and Speight's historical model of a typical rural infantry attack. It might go something like this:

1. Resolve preparatory bombardments for the attacker, and any counter-preparation bombardemnts for the defender. If the attacker gets hit in his forming-up areas, the attack will probably be delayed, so try again later. If the defender is affected by preparatory fire, he may have the choice of withdrawing (or he may not, of the effects have disrupted his C2), or he will subsequently roll to see how fast he recovers from it.

2. The attackers unmask -- typically at about 300 metres, but of there is a good covered approach, or the defenders' observation has been disrupted by preparatory fires, maybe much closer. This is when the "winning the firefight" biut is determined, using the organic and accompanying weapons available to each side, and perhaps planned DFs for the defenders, or a rolling or creeping barrage for the attackers. The defenders have the option of legging it at this stage if they want to. Depending on the extent to which the attackers suffer, they will have the option of packing it in, or pressing on and accepting the casualties required to close.

3. If the attackers' morale holds up under the effects of fire from any unsuppressed defenders, then once they get to 30m the close-quarter battle phase starts. This is the defenders' last chance to have it away on their toes -- this phase of combat will quite quickly be decisive one way or another, and probably will not go in the defenders' favour. Suppressed defenders once overrun will almost certainly surrender.

I think if you got something like this working smoothly, you might see things like attacks failing and being tried again several times, or defenders bugging out only to re-take a lost position once they are reorganised, that abound in histoical accounts, but one seldom if ever sees on the wargames table.

All the best,


doctorphalanx25 Jul 2013 9:30 a.m. PST

@John D Salt

Thanks for these comments. Despite my aspirations I'm a complete novice in this area and I need to do a lot of thinking about how the scales and sequences might interact and what level of abstraction might be required with platoon-sized units and, hexes representing say 250m which are my starting points.

I assume you may be the John Salt quoted in Philip Sabin's 'Simulating War'. Coincidentally, I've just stumbled across a second-hand copy of S L A Marshall's Korea book.


Last Hussar28 Jul 2013 1:44 p.m. PST

I wrote a system where fire resolution was delayed until the targeted unit moved.

When you fired you placed 'Fire Markers' on the target. On their turn (Random card activated) they declared what they wished to do, THEN threw 1 die per fire marker.
Hunker down – Hit on 6
Fire or Rally – Hit on 5+
Move – hit on 4+

For every hit you rerolled to give no effect, pin, suppress or kill

Fire markers were removed after resolution. thus if you were under heavy fire it paid to hunker down to get rid of the fire, where as only 1 or 2 you might take the risk of moving.

You could also set up corridors of fire with MGs- anything with in a couple of Cm of line of fire was attacked (even friendlies)

It remains unfinished because I discovered TFL rules

doctorphalanx31 Jul 2013 4:04 a.m. PST

@Last Hussar

An interesting approach which I will bear in mind.

In the meantime I've been wondering about how close in hexes a typical firefight should take place…

If my hexes are 250m across, and given that typical WW2 firefights occurred at 300m or less, should that be the adjacent hex (250m centre-to-centre) or the adjacent hex but one (500m centre-to-centre/250m edge-to-edge)?

If the proposed firefight mechanism takes place only between adjacent hexes it would make en masse resolution much more straightforward. That doesn't mean there wouldn't be longer range firing – possibly harrassing fire that imposed pins but not suppressions.

These close range firefights would still be distinguishable from assaults as they do not involve an attempt to take ground.

I would then have three levels of 'fighting': (1) ranged fire which would be element to element and could cause pins, (2) firefights resolved en masse with the aim of suppressing, and (3) assaults resolved en masse with the aim of overrunning/taking ground.

Karsta31 Jul 2013 12:03 p.m. PST

This might actually work very well since it would probably be more accurate to say that typical WW2 firefights occurred at ranges of 100m or less. With 250 meter hexes practically all fire from non-adjacent hexes would be from supporting machine guns and mortars and not from rifle platoons. I'm still not sure if long range firefights can be completely disposed of. Surely opposing machine guns could have their own long range firefight with the aim of suppressing the enemy.

I've been pondering on these same problems for a while now. Nice to see someone actually making progress grin
Keep us posted!

John D Salt05 Aug 2013 8:33 a.m. PST

I agree with Karsta -- 300m is really the maximum likely range at which attacking infantry unmask, and when I was in the TA the "Effective fire Line" was considered to be at about 200 to 250 metres. Your chosen hex size seems a good match for this, and the three distinct phases of fire combat -- distant area fire, aimed firefighting, and close-quarter battle -- a good match for Rowland and Speight's model.

All the best,


doctorphalanx06 Aug 2013 3:34 a.m. PST

@Karsta & John D Salt

Thanks for responses. I'm beginning to put some flesh on the bones of the three-phase idea and hope to post some more detail on my blog in a couple of weeks.

Is there a particular source for Rowland and Speight's model? I have found David Rowland's 'The Stress of Battle' – £490.00 GBP second-hand via Amazon but would prefer something cheaper!

doctorphalanx06 Aug 2013 5:06 a.m. PST

I found the time to write up my ideas so here they are:


John D Salt06 Aug 2013 12:10 p.m. PST

Modelling The Rural Infantry Battle: Overall Structure and a Basic Representation of the Approach Battle

L. R. Speight, D. Rowland
Military Operations Research 11/2006; 11(1):5-26

There are two further papers in the series, but this first one gives (as the name implies) the overall structure, and is I think the most useful.

Now all you need is a good library…

All the best,


bishnak06 Aug 2013 5:40 p.m. PST

Some good ideas in your summary at the link, doctorphalanx. I'll be watching with interest how your rules develop. Keep up the good work :)


John D Salt08 Aug 2013 3:25 p.m. PST

Having just read the three instalments to date on DrPhalanx's rather attractive-looking blog, may I raise one not about how this applies to AFV combat?

I would treat tank-to-tank or anti-tank combat as firefighting, not as "ranged fire" (which I would call "area fire"). The phase-change that happens to attacking infantry at 300m or less is that it becomes possible to shoot at individuals, rather than hosing down an area and hoping that some of the bullets coincide with some of the bad guys there. There will still be some of this in the close-range firefight, but because of the limited stock of ammo they can carry individual riflemen cannot do this to the extent that sustained-fire MGs, mortars, or supporting armour can do.

By the nature of armoured targets, it is pretty much a complete waste of time to fire AP ammunition at them unless you can identify an individual vehicle to shoot at. Therefore, area fire will be completely ineffective against them, except insofar as a lucky hit from large-calibre HE rounds might occasionally do some damage. AFVs normally unmask at more like 1000 yards than 300, just because they are a good deal bigger than people. I would suggest that a tank-to-tank firefight lasts no longer an infantry one, probably less long, and that the firefight can be decisive in a tank action, whereas with infantry it is only setting the conditions for the final assault.

Thinking a little further, extending the three-phase model to AFVs as well as infantry shows:

1. The point of APCs, which is to carry infantry through the "area fire" zone at speed and in safety, so they can get right on with the firefight without getting held up by MG, mortar and arty DFs.

2. The different possible styles of tank support to infantry. British doctrine as I recall it distinguished distant support from intimate support. In the 1970s "distant support" meant flinging 120mm HESH from up to 2000 metres away; in 1944 it would have been 75mm HE to 2000 yards (further if bracketing drills were used rather than direct lay). This is obviously the tanks' contribution to the area fire battle on behalf of their own infantry. "Intimate support" means accompanying friendly infantry very closely, and will probably involve entering the infantry "firefighting" range, so being better able to pinpoint targets indicated by the supported infantry, and, if moving fast, perhaps inflicting tank shock on the defenders. Tanks may accompany their infantry into the final assault, although this might render them vulnerable to enemy close-range anti-tank weapons (post-1945, hand-held AT weapons will be able to menace tanks out to 300m).

All the best,


doctorphalanx18 Aug 2013 3:19 a.m. PST

@John D Salt

Thanks very much for these thoughts which are extremely useful. I need to rethink and redefine the 'combat phases' for infantry and AFVs and how they should fit together. But before returning to that I'd like to present my 'game turn sequence of play' ideas, so that's likely to be the next instalment on the blog.

Best wishes


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