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"Examples of real world tactics?" Topic

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Pages: 1 2 

Theron09 Sep 2013 6:45 p.m. PST

Okay, so there are a lot of low level WW2 games out there – ie: 1 man = 1 man or 1 team. Very often the subject comes up as to whether a certain rules set promotes "real world tactics" or not.

Can some one please demonstrate a couple of cases where real world tactics work and non-real world tactics don't? Any rules set will do as long as the example is clear. Also include clear descriptions as to which tactics are real world and which are not.

I ask because although everyone has heard of fire and maneuver not everyone knows what it means. I think I do but maybe I don't. And perhaps there are other tactics that I am not aware of? Also game AAR's almost never describe the use of tactics or the mechanics of the rules played. They almost always simply describe the flow of events the same way a book or article would.

I hope I don't sound too demanding. I have never done an AAR or other web presentation and I'm sure it's a lot of work. But if anybody has anything like this please post!

yours, a would-be tactician.

(Stolen Name)09 Sep 2013 7:06 p.m. PST

One of the clearest examples I have seen is here

Sundance09 Sep 2013 8:01 p.m. PST

One of the issues in the discussion of "real-world tactics" is that players will capitalize on a game rules to do things that would NOT have been done in real life – for example, in ASL one favorite tactic of players was the 'board-edge creep'. The 'world' ended at the board edge so they would try to do end-runs around the defending force. Yes, in the real-world you would try to outflank your objective, but you always faced the chance of taking flanking fire yourself; something that doesn't happen in a game. Another example would be sacrificing a force to meet the victory conditions. In some games, the VC is to occupy an objective. This simply means that if you have one man in the objective and the opponent has none, even if you are surrounded by 100 men and would lose on the next turn, you win because you met the victory condition by the end of the game. Or sacrificing units – I can't think of an example for that, but I've seen it happen in games regularly. Oh, I know – Trying to take a machine gun nest, but there is only one avenue of approach – you keep sending troops into the line of fire hoping that he'll miss or run out of ammo, depending on the rules this could take a variety of forms. Not so realistic, although on very rare examples it happened. I'm sure others will be along to post some more examples.

Pedrobear09 Sep 2013 8:33 p.m. PST

I thought Crossfire demonstrated the principle of fire and movement well.

As for unrealistic tactics, here's a story I was told about our military computer wargame:

This was probably more than 15 years ago, with a very detailed computer wargame system that simulated down to the individual infantryman.

There were bugs in the system, such that some vehicles could drive across water, and there was this landrover that was immortal…

The funny bit was that the system traced LOS from every single piece of equipment, so if an infantryman placed his rifle at a road and walked off, he could still "see" the road. After a while, we had almost-naked infantrymen sitting in the vegetation while their helmets, rifles, webbing, boots, uniform etc. did all the observation.

vtsaogames09 Sep 2013 8:51 p.m. PST

Speaking of unrealistic tactics, Bolt Action players using medics and/or forward observers to make lone attacks on the enemy…

Or Panzerblitz, where trucks drove adjacent to enemy positions after dumping their troops, in order to spot the enemy.

richarDISNEY09 Sep 2013 9:01 p.m. PST

This is a good question Theron.\
I always wondered that myself.

(I am Spam)09 Sep 2013 9:25 p.m. PST

Had that happen in a game I refereed. A player dismounted and sent his transport down the road hoping to unveil the enemy. I unilaterally said they could not do that and simply ruled against him. He quit. His WIFE, on the other hand, understood and continued to play, eventually winning but he never spoke to me again.

Personal logo Narratio Supporting Member of TMP09 Sep 2013 9:38 p.m. PST

Most modern militaries use a bounding over watch system whereby half a unit sits still, ready to shoot at whoever fires at the other half of the unit that is moving forward. Many sets of skirmish rules allow for this but as soon as you get slightly higher, say at platoon level, then the I-go-U-go turns up and the tactic often gets lost in the rules clutter.

wrgmr109 Sep 2013 10:47 p.m. PST

Having played a fair number of Disposable Hero's games, I found it was pretty accurate to small unit tactics.
Squads are broken into a fire element and a maneuver element.
Typically an MG with 2 man crew and a extra man being the fire element, and 6 or 7 men with smg's or rifles for the maneuver element. In one game a player ran 5 men out in the open in front of an MG42, 4 were taken out.
The reality being if you run out in front of an MG42 your probably not going to make it. This was reflected well by the rules.

Suppressing fire, works well in that the sub unit can be taking cover, panicking or routing.
A fire element that has been suppressed can be assaulted.

I did find that tanks, can be very difficult to deal with in open country, if the opposing infantry has limited AT resources. They are mobile pillboxes with 2 or more MG's.

Overall I feel they are a solid set of rules. I stopped playing them because our group had little interest, and the games were small. Our typical game night has 8 to 10 guys.

Sergeant Paper09 Sep 2013 10:51 p.m. PST

Playing Two Hour Wargames NUTS! or FNG rules (or Chain Reaction, etc…), you can be 'outgunned' by an MG, which means you stay in cover rather than run out into its fire. The tactics that work in the game when facing an 'outgunning' weapon include:
Smoke to obscure the weapon position, so it can't see you to shoot you.
Attack the gun position from flank or rear so its not pointed your way.
Put up so many shooters it can't get them all, and blaze away hoping to kill the MG team (doesn't work very well – just like real life!)
Throw grenades at it from covered positions/around corners/over walls, etc.

What works in game is what works in real life.

Patrick R10 Sep 2013 4:49 a.m. PST

I have successfully applied tactics like the "four f / Find, Fix, Flank, Finish" in games.

In one game of Alzo Zero I had US infantry vs Germans. Used a .30 cal, a mortar and two rifle squads to pin down German troops while third squad moved around the flank and rear and took out their tripod mounted MG42 with a splendid field of fire, but oh so exposed to a flanking move. The Germans were so busy trying to outshoot me with their MG's my opponent couldn't spare troops to cover his flank properly. It also helped that my mortar took out a whole squad of German troops huddled together behind a school. One lucky 81mm shot took them out.

I did pretty much the same thing in a follow up game, used my firepower to suppress enemy weapon teams and reduce them with an assault. The enemy was scattered all over the table so he lacked mutually covering fields of fire and I could take him piecemeal.

In our recent CofC games we fought Italians vs British, we did two games, reversing roles and I successfully defended with the British because the enemy came at me piecemeal and scattered. I had a full squad still undeployed in reserve to deal with any breakthrough and if the enemy tanks were getting a bit too nasty, I would fall back and force him to get close so my teams had a chance to attack with AT grenades.

In the follow up game I tried to flank the British with my infantry, but he was able to counter it and was very lucky to get a few double sixes retaining the initiative, but his fire was scattered and I was able to use my tanks to push him back, giving me the opportunity to pull back my men and through attrition forced him to give up.

Automatic weapons are there to suppress enemy weapon teams, while the assault teams move around the flanks and finish them off with enfilading fire or grenades. Don't forget to use smoke and arty support when available to pin down the enemy.

Now cover is vital in most modern games. I need to remind how much cover soldiers can find in what to us gamers looks like a billiard table. So a table that is properly cluttered with features that break line of sight and allow cover is very useful, even deserts have ridges, wadis and other features that offer some cover.

Lion in the Stars10 Sep 2013 9:08 a.m. PST

Another example of NEEDING to use historical tactics is the assault phase in Flames of War.

Well, more precisely the defensive fire step. If you haven't pinned the target platoon during the shooting phase, they're going to shoot you to pieces in Defensive Fire. So you need to either shoot the crap out of the defending platoon, snipe them, or drop artillery on them.

donlowry10 Sep 2013 10:09 a.m. PST

I discovered a glitch of that type with the very first board game I ever owned: AH's original Gettysburg. I soon discovered that all the Union player had to do to win (or avoid defeat) was retreat to the SE corner of the map as fast as possible so that the Rebel player couldn't attack him.

vtsaogames10 Sep 2013 10:45 a.m. PST

SPI had a Vietnam board game called Grunt. The first edition was said to have a flaw. The VC player could avoid contact, winning some scenarios, by setting up on the far side of the board from the US player. The US player couldn't move fast enough to get across the board before the game ended.

jgawne10 Sep 2013 3:08 p.m. PST

an example of no real world tactics is the use of support type units in a direct combat mode. Such as – mortar teams, they run out of ammo. In real life do they attack the enemy in a banzai charge? no, they wait for resupply to go back to their actual job. Which then brings in stuff like the jeeps in a US infantry company which were pretty much never used in a combat role, but in a support role such as bringing said ammo up to the mortars, and not as a sort of mini rat patrol unit.

In some games you can have a bunch of men charge an MG over an open field, but as the MG is limited in how many units it can suppress, some get through to it- where as I real life they would have been able to spray and pray a wide area and keep a greater number of attackers pinned down.

Ark3nubis10 Sep 2013 3:59 p.m. PST

Hey jgawne, are there any systems that simulate fire corridors or MGs covering areas with fire? So any units, (even multiple ones within the same turn) would be considered as hit regardless of any RoF rating given to the weapon if they enter a pre-specified area?

The only game I am aware of yhat dies this, and with rifle fire etc too is Battlefield Evolution: World at War by Mongoose publishing that allows units to target areas and all models/units within that area (such as a 6" wide circle from a target point)

Martin Rapier10 Sep 2013 11:12 p.m. PST

Any rules which have MG beaten zones let you set up proper defensive positions. WRG 1925 to 50 springs to mind, but even Battle had MG beaten zones.

For some reason they seem less popular in modern rules.

Our tactical rules use them, and I once managed to pin an entire company which rather foolishly wandered into the arc of a single MG in a great big clump.

Pedrobear11 Sep 2013 4:01 a.m. PST

Battleground WW2 had beaten zones for MGs.

Dynaman878911 Sep 2013 5:41 a.m. PST

Fireball Forward has MG beaten zones, MGs also get to fire multiple times on defense where other units can only fire once. So the first thing an attacker needs to do is suppress the MG so it can't fire.

Martin Rapier11 Sep 2013 6:06 a.m. PST

Yes, I rather like Fireball Forwards' MG mechanics, as well as its use of hidden movement.

We aren't doing to well at real world tactics are we?

Umm, how to clear a wood.

irl you send cover the flanks and rear with MG armed cut off groups and send in a wave of 'beaters' to drive out enemy into the arms of the waiting MG teams. If the enemy has foolishly defended the forwards edge of the wood they are pounded by your prep fire and blinded by smoke as the beaters break in.

In most wargames the enemy lines up on the edge of the wood, your chaps wander up and find whatever cover they can. Both sides shoot at each other for a number of turns, inflicting appalling casualties until one side runs away or is destroyed.

This happens because small arms fire tends to be rather more lethal in wargames than it is in real life, against targets in cover anyway, they also understate the suppressive effects which irl makes any sort of movement under fire extremely hard (unless you have suppressed the enemy first).

Andy ONeill11 Sep 2013 8:24 a.m. PST

Sg2 does the low casualties high suppression thing pretty well.
Close combat is the way to kill lots and to get there you need to suppress the enemy.
I also add negative shifts for suppression for a section in close combat in my ww2 adaption.

I thought about adding beaten areas for mgs but the ability to shoot as if during the previous move or interrupt is near enough for most purposes. And you can re-activate.

RBurnett11 Sep 2013 9:56 a.m. PST

We are discussing WW2 small unit tactics--so how come, in most of the mentioned rules sets, the "red" player can see the "blue" player's figures? (yes, they are not "spotted" but they are visible nonetheless and the red player can plan accordingly--as can the blue.) In the real world, the blue or red "player" wouldn't be able to see those enemy troops--or indeed, his own, as they would be behind cover and camouflage and concealment. The difference in "play" psychologies is of huge importance--all real world tactics, decision making and the rest is about the available intelligence, and this is very much les complete than that in the war game world of say Crossfire (where all the figures are seen, if not spotted, even though the figures are behind concealment and cover)
In a word, real life tactics cannot be done as the players know too much--they know to the millimeter all the where's and what's of all pieces concerned--there are no surprises of say, first encounters--that new Russian tank (be it the KV 2 or the JS 2) or the new German blitz tactics, or, as the Doubler book points out (Closing with the Enemy) the search for solutions to new problems the US Army had to do in Europe--we all now know how to deal with bocage, fighting in forests, dealing with fortress cities like Metz as this is all in the history books, as are the solutions to German tactics
Instead of battles that read as if from S L A Marshall, we get what? Instead of such events such as a large Soviet tank force driving into its own Anti-tank ditch (of course not as the Russians player would see it well before spotting it and never make that mistake) at Kursk, or those British paratroopers, several companies, that went into a forest near Arnhem, and got lost for many hours before re-emerging (oh no, the figures would never get lost that way in any game I have seen or heard of) Or getting the 'Red" pieces to fire on each other (see Band of Brothers, the taking of the German artillery battery--the Germans were shooting at each other at the end)
With the cluttered battlefield--where all the troops and equipment are known--the exact rates of fire, the exact damages taken or inflicted, the exact amount of ammo expended--known to all players (are you kidding?-a Japanese real world tactic was to snap two pieces of bamboo to simulate rifle fire of their rifles to attempt to draw American fire--impossible to do in these games as, well, the effects of sound -"what's that noise?" are not in the rules or gamer's experience
Let's see if any of the games mentioned could replicate the experience of some Marines on Bougainville, crossing a creek, and being opened up on by a Japanese bunker so well concealed that the Marines didn't "spot" it or see it until they were less than five feet away
Until we have the Empty Battlefield (see Paddy Griffith's Forward into Battle) there is no chance at all of doing real tactics at the company level and below--or, for that matter, at any scale, in the air, at sea or on land--
This of course means the Umpired game and the striking down of, the elimination of (as you wouldn't know exactly what will work and what they have in those many battles of first encounter--which happen not only at the beginning of wars and battles, but during them) the ever present weapons statistics, vehicle statistics, etc,
And do not just pass this off as another complaint about hindsight or the 30 ft or helicopter general--
the Atkinson books by themselves alone, not to mention Marshall and Doubler (again) are enough to void the "realism" of all our games
This may seem to be a "radical" set of thoughts--however- since when did the real world WW2 commanders ever see more than a fraction of even their own commands, much less the enemy--the trouble lays with the miniatures, which too many have spent too much time painting and mounting and therefore have a psychological investment, such that they want these figures, this "art" on display--even though none of the art should appear except for the merest of time.

RBurnett11 Sep 2013 11:38 a.m. PST

The only game that I know of--and have played--that has the empty battlefield is Michael F Korn's 1973 SUTC (Small Unit Tactical Combat) Completely umpire driven--double blind skirmish one figure equals one "historical" soldier with a "variable length bound" type of play
All you have as the player is the time, approximate place and who you are (germans, US, whatever)--your leader/commander figure is you--just like a role playing game--and the other figures are, for all intents and purposes, run by the umpire--you never roll the dice as player--you may not even know where your own people are (as they are taken off the table if you send them around a piece of concealment or cover) and you will only know about your own side casualties as your figure "sees" or "hears"
The SUTC game has very short and simple charts--and few of them, so the play is over quickly--especially if the leader figures are KIA The weapons stats are unusual--probably inaccurate. The ground scale is much like Crossfire--but you won't be able to get kills at all ranges, the ground scale is one cm = one meter If the umpire chooses, he can junk up the rules and charts with ammo expenditures, special non-player character charts, more elaborate observation, weapons accuracy and hand to hand combat charts--but the essential of the empty battlefield and very very limited intelligence is the focus--this set could just as well be used for French skirmishers fighting Spanish guerrillas or the Wild West shoot outs
I do not like using tanks or artillery in the game--155mm shells, a barrage, tears up the board and armor vs armor is at close range(but there was a lot of that-but the rules are light on the various items and issues of driving vehicles about)
But when Ned Zuparko and I and several others played SUTC, we did have a lot of terrain and armored vehicles to boot--ever had some of your people be run over by a rank emerging from a church? or had one of your soldiers shoot a cow?

Thomas Thomas11 Sep 2013 12:45 p.m. PST

Empty battlefields aren't very interesting in a miniatures game. Computer games work better for simulating that aspect of modern battle.

Beaten zones for MGs are interesting concepts but don't work as well without ammo rules and without limited intelligence.

Miniature games should simulate other aspects of modern war – maneuver over firepower minutia for instance.

I'm only always amused by the recitation of to attack you need to first suppress enemy than finish off with maneuver…Its a bit harder than that. Your maneuver element may run into additional enemies or you may find enemies who don't realize you have waived the magic "suppression" wand at them…


Legion 411 Sep 2013 12:52 p.m. PST

Theron, there are some great places to learn real world tactics, like the US Army Infantry School, Ranger School, the NTC, etc., etc. … evil grin

RBurnett11 Sep 2013 2:39 p.m. PST

Tom--you wrote:
Empty battlefields aren't very interesting in a miniatures game. Computer games work better for simulating that aspect of modern battle

Yet this is The Miniatures Page

And you wrote:
Beaten zones for MGs are interesting concepts but don't work as well without ammo rules and without limited intelligence

Limited intel with miniatures--? some or most of the empty battlefield?

And you wrote:

Miniature games should simulate other aspects of modern war – maneuver over firepower minutia for instance.

But the empty battlefield is about fire and maneuver--take Marshall's Pork Chop Hill--the unknowns of the Chinese strength and positions, the unknowns of King Co positions (at least at Battalion) and the unknowns of the flanking companies--the fire and maneuvre into the trench complex--the unknowns of US fire support--the incapacity of battalion or send in reinforcements--and a hundred other unknowns that affected fire and manuevre--indeed, Clemens could only see the edge of the next trench, the immediate enemy, his immediate people--battalion could only speculate over a map
Yes, the miniatures are an issue--to use then at all--or to present them as they are actually seen
The issue is miniatures and realistic tactics, not the issue of computer to portray realistic tactics, much less a board game or one of Paddy Griffith's committee games--

Learning the real world tactics also involves how the Army uses sand tables and computers and field exercises to war game out issues--and these involve the empty battlefield unknowns--there are some past issues of Parameters that address these issues

Andy ONeill12 Sep 2013 2:51 a.m. PST

The best wargames I play are double blind, the suspense adds immensely.
Lot of work for the referee running the game and setting you need two tables, some way of separating them and duplicates of every piece of terrain.

So that's often not practical.

With attack defence games we routinely have the defender map deploy. So at least the attacker doesn't know what he faces.

Some games we use various blinds sort of mechanics. Some are dummy some just a patrol on recce.

Then there's fuzzy placement, which I've dabbled with. You place one model/base out a unit as a representative marker until spotted. Then the player is forced to deploy the entire unit. The player with the initiative gets an advantage.
I suppose you could build in a card draw or something which made a unit get lost. His sort of random f up is not popular with players though.

At the end of the day it's an entertaining game that players are looking for.
A bit of historical flavour is expected.
A lot of work is not.
Compromises are necessary.

Martin Rapier12 Sep 2013 3:28 a.m. PST

As Andy says, double blind is fun but often fairly impractical.

Single blind is very easy to set up though, player team vs umpire(s) and reproduces much of the uncertainty when faced with an empty battlefield.

Some rules mechanisms attempt to emulate the effects of the empty battlefield without being hung up an absolute simulation (which is what double blind is). Crossfire makes you deploy to cover your flanks because you die if you don't, but does this without single or double blind.

"I'm only always amused by the recitation of to attack you need to first suppress enemy than finish off with maneuver…Its a bit harder than that. Your maneuver element may run into additional enemies or you may find enemies who don't realize you have waived the magic "suppression" wand at them…"

Well, in war everything is simple but the simple things are very hard:)

There was interesting study by the (modern) Canadian army of combat in urban areas and it found the advance was more like a flock of birds with each sub group conducting their own micro battles, although within each micro battle the sequence of suppress-assault was followed diligently (or you die). There just weren't any wide flanking manoeuvres.

irl of course the flankers being pinned down in their own firefight is why attacks 'bog down'. Something it seems incredibly hard to replicate on the games table, where attacks never 'bog down', instead half the attackers are killed and rest run away.

The point of an MG beaten zone is that there is then some reason to siting your MGs to fire across the front of their pals. irl this applies to all small arms fire, but it is more pronounced for MGs with their very narrow and deep danger zones.

Squad Leader, for all its failings, captured that aspect of infantry tactics very well. Best of luck trying to run through a bunch of interlocked MG beaten zones, especially if Lt Stahler is manning one of the MGs:) Attacker numbers were also irrelevant to the success or failure of such a charge, just more targets to shoot.

Most wargames rules don't seem to do target density well or at all apart from wrt area fire weapons.

Ark3nubis12 Sep 2013 5:00 a.m. PST

Hey all, I'm reading this thread with great interest. Some of you have mentioned beaten zones above, and systems that specifically try to model them. Can some you be more specific as to what the rules say to do? Is it simply an aim point within LOS and anywhere on the board, anything that crosses takes a squirt from the MG, or is it more an area of a specific size, anything crossing it gets attacked or how do they do it?

The nearest thing I have in my game I wrote is a fire corridor the width of the nearest target unit. Any units along that path will be an eligible target for the over spray. By that I mean, envisage a firing unit shooting at 3 target units that are nicely lined up. The first unit has say 10 dice rolled, with maybe 4 hits. Resolve the hits. The 6 misses are then rolled against the next target unit, with any misses then allocated to the third and so on. This only works though when the attacking unit fires in one go in their turn, and is not MG specific (any firing within range) If the same 3 units moved across the firing unit's path at different times within their own turn, the firing unit can roll individually to attack, but again this isn't really modelling a beaten zone properly IMO. Can you guys elaborate?

We have also used blinds within a game, more so for defenders, but a couple of times for a meeting engagement type scenario too. It is fun, as long as you can remember which unit is which blind. Having dummy blinds also increases this fun but makes remembering units a bit harder again.


Martin Rapier12 Sep 2013 7:31 a.m. PST

In WRG the MG beaten zone was (iirc) 10m x 75m deep.
Anything in the beaten zone was subject to an area fire attack.

In Battle the MG beaten zone was a triangular template 1" wide at its apex (33 yards) and iirc 18" (900 yards) long.

Anything in the beaten zone got shot at, 3+ at close range, 4+ medium range etc.

In our tactical rules, A Platoon Commanders War, they are 1" wide (10 yards) and 12" long (100 yards). Anything in the beaten zone gets shot at. With a belt fed MG firing at targets in the open they will get at least suppressed on a roll of 2+, if flanked, a 1+ (on a D6…)

In Squad Leader they are slightly distorted by the hex grid, 40m wide and between 80m and 320m deep depending on weapon. Again, an attack against all units in the zone.

None of these are especially realistic as the calculation of the size of the actual 'beaten zone' as in, where the bullets hit the ground, is quite a complex calculation. Many reasonable calibre bullets also travel in a straight line for a few hundred metres, so if your gun is set up for grazing fire the danger zone is also several hundred metres deep even if bullets don't start to drop until the end. Of all of the above, the venerable 'Battle' model is probably closest.

As I said above, normal small arms also have a beaten zone, which is why e.g. infantry assault waves need to be a couple hundred metres apart.

One of the War Office operations studies had a handy table of typical frontage which could be successfully engaged by a rifle section, iirc a standard section could suppress a width of 100 yards (plus roughly 100 yards depth for overshoots). The widths reduce for targets in relation to how dug in they are (25 yards vs targets in trenches with overhead cover).

For some reason wargames rules don't usually treat small arms as area effect weapons, although grid based ones do. See again e.g. Squad Leader. You shoot the hex, not at each unit in it.

Having all fire as area effect tends to reduce unrealistic bunching, either as the players choose not to bunch or their little lead heroes end up as heaps of bunched corpses.

Just Jack Supporting Member of TMP12 Sep 2013 7:47 a.m. PST


For what it's worth, I think there is a bit of confusion about machine gun terminology. The term 'beaten zone' keeps being brought up, but what I think you guys are meaning to refer to is the 'cone of fire.' The only time targets are hit in the beaten zone is in plunging fire or indirect fire.

Think of it this way: a MG is on a tripod with its barrel parallel to the ground. You squeeze off an 8-10 round burst, those rounds leave the barrel, they climb (as all bullets do leaving the muzzle), they reach their apogee, then they descend, until they hit the ground. Unlike in movies, those rounds are not following one behind the other, but are scattered in a grouping, both in the air and where they fall. Where they fall is called the beaten zone. If you now swing your perspective to behind the gun, you can draw a circle starting from about 20 meters from the gun all the way to the beaten zone; this is the cone of fire, i.e., this is the tube the rounds travel through from the gun to the beaten zone.

In MG employment, you want the cone of fire to be the kill zone, not the beaten zone, as the cone of fire will extend (as an example with the M-60/M-240) the kill zone from about 20 meters to about 600 meters in 'grazing fire' (roughly having the barrel parallel to the ground), while 'plunging fire' (firing from an elevated position down onto the target) or indirect fire reduces the kill zone to the beaten zone.

The best example is a linear danger area such as a road. Using grazing fire, if you sight your MG down the axis of the road, you can fire burst after burst hitting everyone on the road between 20 and 700 meters (i.e., in the cone of fire). If you build a tower and place it on the road so that your gun is oriented down the axis of the road, because your are firing down (plunging fire) you can no longer hit every target in the road, you can only hit the targets in your beaten zone (the cone of fire is harmlessly above the ground). If you leave the gun locked in its T/E on the tripod this will go from a 2m x 12m square at 100m up to about a 40m x 40m square at 700m, but you will be missing everyone not in the beaten zone. Having said that, there are techniques to manipulate the T/E to broaden the beaten zone: searching fire increases the depth of the beaten zone, traversing fire increases the width of the beaten zone, and searching and traversing fire increases both. The downside to each of these is that they reduce the volume of fire in the beaten zone (you're spreading the same amount of rounds over a larger area), decreasing your chances to hit a man-sized target.

*EDIT* As I was writing all this, Martin just posted again and explained a lot of this. But I put too much work into this post to take it down ;)

Martin said: "The point of an MG beaten zone is that there is then some reason to siting your MGs to fire across the front of their pals. irl this applies to all small arms fire, but it is more pronounced for MGs with their very narrow and deep danger zones."

This illustrates what I'm talking about. MG employment typically involves beginning the fight with the MG sitting on a tripod having a "Principal Direction of Fire" (PDF) covering an enemy likely avenue of approach. This is usually far enough away (maybe 900 meters, which is beyond grazing fire range), so the kill zone for the PDF is the beaten zone. I.e., you dig the machine gun in to cover a road you know the enemy will have to come down, with the point of engagement being 900m from you; since it's beyond grazing fire range, the cone of fire will be about 15m above the ground (assuming we're covering flat ground) and the beaten zone hitting at 900m on the road.

So enemy infantry/softskins come trotting up the road, the MG engages at 900m, probably not even messing with the T/E because, at this range you would scatter rounds over a mile-wide beaten zone and probably not hit anything. The enemy presses home their assault. As the enemy gets closer the gunner will begin to 'free gun,' that is getting off the PDF to engage enemy infantry/vehicles that have gotten inside the PDF. A good team will have marked out the T/E numbers on their range card, a bad team will just kick the T/E free and be swinging the gun around like in the movies, not hitting anything.

The enemy troops are nearly on top of us now. Let's say our defensive front is set up like this, from left to right: MG – rifle squad – rifle squad – rifle squad – MG (there would also be small rifle teams on each flank to protect the MGs from enemy infantry). What Martin is talking about in terms of 'siting your MGs to fire across the front of their pals' is what we call the Final Protective Fire, or FPF. For machine guns, you typically set up the tripod T/E so that your FPF is either your left or right lateral limit (the farthest you can swing the gun on the tripod, either left or right). When the signal goes up to fire the FPF (we usually used a red-star cluster), the gun on the left will swing all the way to the right to fire across the front of the line, while the gun on the right will swing left to do the same. They're firing grazing fire so that their cones of fire are producing a wall of lead from boot-top to head height across the line.

Similarly, the rifle squads (on the inside) are turning out and firing their FPF as well (we marked PDF and FPF with engineer stakes or tent pegs), mostly built around their squad LMGs, but rifles get in on the act as well. The volume of fire is increased for everyone. It's not really mentioned in games (and I don't know how you would represent this), but in real life there are phase lines which you use to control your rate of fire, with the rate going up the closer the enemy gets. I.e., when the MG opened up at 900m it was at the 'sustained rate,' firing an 8-10 round burst every 10-15 seconds. Once the bad guys are inside that and get to say, 500m (the actual range depends on the platoon/company fire plan), you move it up to the 'rapid' rate, firing your 8-10 round burst every 5-10 seconds. When you fire the FPF you go to the cyclic rate, which is everyone firing as fast as they possibly can. The MG is letting off just enough to not melt the barrel out on the spot (the barrel will be ruined after this, and I've seen them hot enough that you can see the rounds travelling down the barrel).

Whew! I love long posts (I'm being facetious, sorry for the extraordinarily long post)… I hope this was interesting/helps someone out.


Legion 412 Sep 2013 8:03 a.m. PST

Obviously Jack, you and I went to a similar school(s) … wink Ah … memories … old fart The phenomena of seeing the bullets travelling down a hot barrel always amazed me !

Supercilius Maximus12 Sep 2013 8:31 a.m. PST

From a complete know-nothing on modern tactics, that was an excellent explanation of terms and acronyms that I have long heard fellow wargamers bandy about incessantly, but have never really understood – thank you.

PilGrim12 Sep 2013 11:20 a.m. PST

I umpired a game of CoC last night which proved the validity of real world tactics – or rather showed why you should use smoke and fire and maneuver. A British infantry platoon tried to take a German PzGrenadier platoon head on. Needless to say it was a one sided bloodbath. What surprised me was the British player, who I always assumed was well versed in the period, could not grasp the volume of fire MG42s could put down in comparison to his Brens.

The Brits did finally manage to smoke, move and assault, and succeeded in dislodging one of the MG42s and overrunning it.

A previous game with different players had provided a text book example of the value of flanking, where a short British Platoon routed a German one with minimum casualties.

tuscaloosa12 Sep 2013 5:02 p.m. PST

A few years ago we played one skirmish level WW2 game set at night, with a referee.

My side recalled our training in night fighting, one point of which is that grenades are preferred to direct fire, since a thrown grenade at night does not betray the thrower's location.

So, as the enemy assaulted us, we threw grenades, and did great damage to the attacker while he couldn't even figure out where we were. The game, with a referee to make it truly "blind", correctly modeled a real world tactic.

Just Jack Supporting Member of TMP12 Sep 2013 6:06 p.m. PST

Legion4: my schools were Marine, and if I recall correctly, yours were courtesy of the US Army, though certainly the same tactics and doctrine. Endless gun drills: pack it up, haul butt, set it up, get it back in action, do it again. Field strip it. Do it again. Dig a fighting position, dig the supplementary position. Runaway gun! Do a range card, a fire-plan sketch, all stuff that is burned into my brain…

Super-Max: no problem, happy to be of service.


Pedrobear12 Sep 2013 9:59 p.m. PST

IIRC, Battleground WW2 made a distinction between "cone of fire" and "beaten zone".

As mention, cone of fire is more like your usual "MG template" and hits everything under it.

Beaten zone involves "plunging fire", so it's more like an "artillery template" (an oval, IIRC).

I recall beaten zone being for above a certain range, but I can't remember if it required a tripod/HMG (in the game rules).

Martin Rapier13 Sep 2013 4:07 a.m. PST

Thanks Justjack, part of the confusion is that rules terminology is all over the place.

Just Jack Supporting Member of TMP13 Sep 2013 6:27 a.m. PST

Here, I found this:


And this:
Grazing fire keeps the cone of fire low enough to the ground to hit people (boot top to head level), while plunging fire has the unfortunate effect of placing the cone of fire so high above the ground that it can't hit anyone, so the only targets hit are in the beaten zone.


'Free gun' is Hollywood style, where you unlock the T/E and spray rounds all over the place, not hitting much and overall being better served going 'Rambo' style…

And I found quite a few range card examples, but none of them were filled out correctly! They had either the PDF or the FPF on them, when you're (of course) supposed to have both. I picked this one because is was the only one that showed the FPF as I was taught:


The way you read it is: in the block with the concentric half circles (we referred to as the fireplan sketch), the gun is situated in the center at the bottom, facing the top of the card. Below, in the data section, you have numbers 1 through 4, which correspond to lines in the fireplan sketch. Looks to be: far left is number 4, center left is number 3, center right is number 2, and the far right is number 1, which he refers to the FPF (though he refers to it as the FPL, or Final Protective Line).

In the data section you see deflection and eleveation with directions and numbers (i.e., R275/+50); those are directions on how to manipulate the T/E in order to get the gun on target, while the FPF doesn't have deflection because it's set up to where you unlock the gun (from the T/E) and slide the muzzle all the way to the right to fire across the front of the rest of your unit.

There are several problems with this range card. He didn't do the ranges right; the first circle where the gun is does not count as a range band, and it moves up in increments from there. Look at center left where he has a target marker and '425' marked on the fire plan sketch; while he's got it listed as '425,' to me it looks like he put it on the sketch at a range of 225. I assume that is his mark for the road junction, in which case his azimuth should shoot directly through that target marker on the sketch. In general, the ranges are way to close, which sometimes happens due to bad terrain, but a lot of times that means you don't have the gun in the best position. Similarly, he doesn't have any of the azimuths marked as his PDF (which would be the main terrain feature he is expected to cover). I would assume it's number 3, the road junction, as the guns are usually set up to cover avenues of approach (our other two options are a boulder and a barn).

The way it should be set up is your PDF is your initial target, the one that is furthest away. Then you look at targets inside your PDF, i.e., if the enemy has made it through your initial kill zone, where is the enemy next most likely to hide/move to? In that case, the boulder and the barn make sense as shifts from the PDF, but our guy has the barn farther away than the road junction. So maybe the barn is supposed to be the PDF, but that doesn't make a lot of sense as you'd want to hit the bad guys before they made it to the shelter of the barn (which is 525 yds away, well within range, even of grazing fire).

I would submit that if we move the number three, the road junction, back to 700 meters and label it the PDF, we have a decent range card. The fight starts with the enemy coming up the road, where we will engage them at 700m at the road junction. As they get past the initial kill zone, they begin to filter to the only cover available: the barn and the boulder, both of which we have marked off to be able to swing the gun against rapidly. We have probably used obstacles to influence the enemy to move to our right where, when they get close enough, we will receive the signal to fire the FPF, at which time we will unlock the gun, slam the butt all the way to the left, and fire 'til we melt the barrel to the right (across the face of our buddies). At least that's how it's supposed to work…


Andy ONeill13 Sep 2013 8:33 a.m. PST

You got it all wrong mate.

You see your PDF is always a moving target.
After all.
It's a PORTABLE Document Format.

Just Jack Supporting Member of TMP13 Sep 2013 8:52 a.m. PST

"You got it all wrong mate."

Story of my life…

"You see your PDF is always a moving target."

Of course it is; if we're on the defense and they're not moving, this is going to be a real boring fight!


Theoretically I'm portable, but I certainly can't be classified as always moving; a rarely-moving target at best…


Ark3nubis13 Sep 2013 9:11 a.m. PST

Awesome Jack, thanks loads!

Just Jack Supporting Member of TMP13 Sep 2013 9:44 a.m. PST

To bring this all back around to the original post, in this case use of 'real-world' machine-gun tactics in low-level WWII gaming, the honest answer is, I don't know how to represent this stuff.

In relatively bigger games where ground scale is going to be larger (a bigger table, length of table equals a km for example), MGs should be huge killers of infantry. But in the smaller scale stuff like a lot of us playing now (think CoC, Dispoable Heroes, Bolt Action, much less 'real' skirmish rules where men activate individually like Nuts! or Flying Lead), due to the ground scale we're actually getting inside the MG's prime envelope of 400-800m.

As discussed earlier, a MG PDF is set on an avenue of approach about 600 to 700m away (ideally the limit of your guns ability to conduct grazing fire). Of course the MG will engage targets inside that range as the enemy closes, but in the platoon/company fire plan the belt from (as an example) 300 to 600m is going to be covered by the company mortars (for the USMC, 60mm mortars from weapons platoon). From 300m in, that's the domain of the rifle squads/platoons (unless and until the enemy reaches our FPL and the guns are brought around to fire the FPF).

In CoC the table is (long ways) 240m. At this point, MGs are much more limited in their effectiveness on moving, dispersed, targets, and I would submit that, in our games they should be racking up a lot of pins/suppressions/shock but not many kills at all. Unless they catch the enemy stacked on top of one another of course, but I'm the bad guys are maintaining some sort of 'normal' interval/dipersion.

At this reduced range, the cone of fire becomes much less pronounced, that is, the bullets are following each other more closely and thus less able to his multiple targets. So the chance of more than one guy getting hit becomes slimmer, but that volume of fire sure will have you second guessing your chosen occupation…

Another thing to think about at this range is supply. If our platoon-level games are essentially simulting the final push into close combat, supply could become an issue. If an MG-42 began the engagement with 1200 rounds at 600m, by the time the Tommies are within 10mm he's probably out of ammo and pulling back into a marshalling area where other forces are prepping for the counterattack. Now, that's not a very fun game (when your advance gets halfway across the table the enemy leaves)!

This is not a knock on any ruleset, just talking about sustained fire/tripod mounted weapons. Because I think therein lies part of the answer, just as in real life. Like I said, the rifle squads/platoons own the last 300 yards, and their primary killer is the squad LMG. My only issue here in rules is that we (in my humble opinion) probably overpower LMGs in our rules. I think we overpower rifles too, but if you took them down one more notch in most rules they'be worthless.

Specifically what I mean by overpowering LMGs (and even tripod-mounted MGs at this range), is when our rules have the MG engaging the team (as opposed to individuals), we usually have some sort of rule saying the team has to be right next to each other (bases touching, within 'x' inches, etc…) which, to our eye, looks like great MG target, but in real life, whent the bad guys are that close, you're no longer firing a burst into a group of guys (like you are at 600m), you're firing a burst at this guy, then a burst at that guy, then a burst at the next guy. Please understand that on a tripod that takes some time; fire a burst, click-click-click-click-click-click-click the T/E over to the left, fire a burst, do it again. And if you're on a bipod and do the movie 'hold the trigger and sweep the whole horizon from left to right,' you're not going to hit anything or really even scare anyone.

When you're that close to bad guys, MGs are really nothing more than rifles that can sustain fire and pour a boatload of rounds at one guy at a time. Personally, when gaming engagements at this range, I'm a fan of rules that 1) allow MGs to either engage a team (within a certain distance of each other) with about a zero chance of killing someone, but a high probability of pins/shock, or 2) allow the MG to aim at one guy and go for the kill with a very good shot at putting him down (he's about to receive 15-30 rounds).

Anyways, that's my two cents…


Lion in the Stars13 Sep 2013 12:39 p.m. PST

Hey jgawne, are there any systems that simulate fire corridors or MGs covering areas with fire? So any units, (even multiple ones within the same turn) would be considered as hit regardless of any RoF rating given to the weapon if they enter a pre-specified area?
This Quar's War gives HMGs (or heavy shotguns) a pretty huge beaten zone. The HMG's beaten zone is a triangle with a 10" wide base at 12" range that then extends out to 96". The HSG's beaten zone is much shorter, since it's a 10" triangle at 16" range (and only affects units within 16"). Not only do the guns activate as normal and shoot a specific unit, but any unit inside the beaten zone loses one action (of the two that they get!). But the heavy shotguns and HMGs are big honking crew-served weapons on tripods or artillery carriages.

Infinity has a Suppression Fire corridor template that's a 2" diameter cylinder 96" long. This is OK, because the game is fought at very short ranges (inside 250m assuming 1"=2m, and I often use 1"=1.5m for buildings)

There are actually some units in WarmaHordes that can use an MG cone of fire or beaten zone, but there are very few.

Last Hussar13 Sep 2013 3:50 p.m. PST

Jack – after reading that, about restricted arc at close range, I'm now wondering if MG in CoC should have 'Effective range' 0-18, and 'Close' at 18+ !

Just Jack Supporting Member of TMP13 Sep 2013 5:16 p.m. PST

Last Hussar,

Like I said above, I'm not sure what to do in terms of representing this stuff in games. Philosophically, I like to play wargames; I'm not trying to "simulate" ground combat. Having said that, as you've seen, I certainly like to discuss this stuff and 'tweak' rules to fit what I think the rules should do.

I certainly think that's a novel idea, and possibly a good one. I have yet to even play a game of CoC, so I'm not about to recommend changing anything. But I am renowned for not playing rulesets as designed (no disrespect meant to any authors), it seems I always have to mess with them.

Back to the "simulation" stuff, while the use of MGs is kind of caricatured in (all?) wargames, I don't mind because I understand the point. Things get generalized, abstracted, stereotyped, etc…, to give us a game that's fun to play and represents what we think it looks like. So, like I said, in real life the (tripod mounted) MGs are looking to engage between 500 and 900m; but we want to have tripod MGs on the table, and we want them to be used/act like they do in real life, so we design rules that do that, just on a condensed scale (in this case, 0-240m). And I'm okay with that, I want to have fun with a representation of ground combat.

This same concept applies to all the other support we give our squads/platoons/companies in all our games using all the different rulesets. In the overall scheme of things, we talk WWII and we talk tanks, and our tables sport them likes it's cool because it is cool, and it matches our conceptions/romantic visions of what happened/we want to happen. The fact is, infantry was the predominant arm of ground forces in every country; most fights were infantry vs. infantry with some arty support, with nary a tank to be found, but in our games we happily send two or three tanks in with every rifle platoon, and probably add a couple MGs and mortars, too.

So, I'd say, have at it if you want, and don't if you don't. For me, if I wanted to truly get gritty about MG employment, I would have to go to a larger scale game so that there's room to maneuver larger elements, there's room for longer engagement ranges, and a game that has hidden movement (i.e., the Lardies' tried and trusted blinds) so that MGs have the opportunity to rip into large formations at long range, as they do, or are hoping to do, in real life.

I think there are games that have tried to do this, but I think most gamers screw it up by putting too much armor on the table, which ultimately erases the importance of machine guns in games. In my experience, MGs then turn into nothing more than different shaped crunchies for the fire breathing steel beasts to consume.

I will say that, of all the games I've played, watched being played, seen pictures of, Mark Luther's 6mm batreps using IABSM often look to me to be the best, most realistic looking. I'm not talking about his magnificent paint jobs and terrain, I'm talking about engagement ranges and troop dispersion (even despite the fact the bases represent squads and would take up more room in real life as the troops fanned out in open terrain). But he, like the rest of us, likes to get a lot of armor on the table too!

In any case, this is good stuff that I enjoy discussing, but I'm very long-winded and I need to get back to boning up on my copy of CoC as my plan is to get it on the table this weekend and I'm already up against a real time crunch!


Last Hussar13 Sep 2013 7:06 p.m. PST

I too am a big fan of IABSM – its a real thinkers game. In fact before going round for one game I spoke to Sunjester and we both felt too tired for IABSM, so did Black Powder WSS instead as it was nice and simple!

It always feels like a game where it feels it helps if you understand the history. Men in the open DIE. Attacks need to be properly co-ordinated: I once watched in awe and admiration as Sunjester put a textbook attack onto one of my strengthened positions. It was empty- I'd left it there a dummy – 'Quaker Guns' if you will to slow him up, but it was as good as you'd see in any diagram, one section to the front firing and suppressing, another working its way round the side to assault; it took planning, rather than rush everything forward to try and get as many DRM as he could.

Footprint is a problem that plagues modern (the last 80yrs or so) games, purely because there isn't a standard size: your spacing crossing a field is different to in close terrain. We use 2 x 30mm bases, each base being half a section. This is useful, because 4 men left usually means the section is on one action, so 1 base is a good visual reminder that the unit is basically spent. That is a frontage of approx 50ft for 8-10 men. A bit narrow for the open, but on the other hand you want to be able to get them in to cover. You could see the bases as the heart of the section, not its limit- this is why you shouldn't cluster. Units within 2 inches of each other attract +2 on the firing dice roll total. That effectively extends units footprint to an extra inch all around, so covering an area of 30 yards x 20 yards.

I am still wondering about basing my Charlie Dont Surf (IABSM in Viet Nam) 1:1 scale- some bases having 2 some 3 men, with some singles to act as 'change', and going for straight figure removal. The problem is while 4 bases (2x2, 2x3) will give approx a 75m frontage, this is hopeless for close terrain.

Ark3nubis14 Sep 2013 4:11 a.m. PST

Last hussar, your comment on MG range is interesting. In my home grown rules weapons have unlimited range (rifles etc, but not SMGs, pistols etc) however they have an effective range, so rifles this would be 18". How it works is that any unit hits on a target unit cause a suppression (or a pin in some games), so 10 hits equals 10 suppressions added. However within effective range those hits may well cause damage, so roll the 10 hits again and consult the damage chart, on a 6 you get a kill. Smaller games we hav a 4-5 result as wounded with a recovery roll like in Necromunda, but in larger games that's a bit too much detail.

The effects are nearly always suppression, so bodes well the actual effects of taking small arms fire. Does CoC do a similar sort of thing? It appears so.

Just Jack Supporting Member of TMP14 Sep 2013 6:32 p.m. PST

Last Hussar,

Yeah, footprint is such a hard thing to model because of the different formations, as well as adjustments based on terrain. It's funny, I suppose we could do like Napoleonics/ACW and have three or four bases for a squad so that they can change formation and interval, but it seems that's not really done or talked about. Probably because it works much better with a 1:20/1:50 figure ratio where casualty removal isn't such a big deal, but with a 1 to 1 aspect casualty issues make a big hole in your squad, even though in real life they could still cover a very large area in open terrain. That leaves only single basing, which I find tedious for company-level games.

For company level, I much prefer a single base with 4-5 figures represents a squad, and that squad can take 'x' amount of shock before pinned/broken and 'y' amount of hits before eliminated. I have been messing around with using singly based figs to represent a squad in terms of the number of hits it can sustain (I suppose another way of saying it would be each figure represents 3 or 4 men). What I mean is, if your ordinary 10-man squad/section can take four hits before being eliminated, then put four figs on the table and remove one each time a hit is taken, with losing the last figure representing the destruction of the squad/section (in terms of loss of combat effectiveness). Of course, this does absolutely nothing to take care of our footprint problem…

You mention Vietnam; I'm interested in Vietnam as well, in two separate campaigns (or at least concepts). The first is the French fighting the Vietminh, particularly Dien Bien Phu and its surrounding areas. The other is South Vietnam vs. North Vietnam, 72-75, with maybe some Laos incursion in there as well. Man, I've just got too much going on…


Last Hussar14 Sep 2013 11:25 p.m. PST

The difference with H&M is that units had well defined formations – we know 'x' men will take up 'y' paces. Formation changes are easy to accommodate, even though we have to gloss over some aspects because of gaming constraints- Maths tells you moving from a 2 deep line to a 4 deep square will halve your frontage, something that is not possible with 4 bases to the battalion.

Here's a little exercise Go to Google Earth and put in this UK postcode: SG4 7EE. It should centre you on Lannock Manor Farm. Now I know this area well- I grew up in the nearby village (Weston), so have travelled that road a lot- I still do, my parents still live in Weston. Now if you look to the north of the two labourers cottages opposite the Farm you will see a wheat field. I don't know how many hedges have been torn up in the last 200 years, but that is flat- though obviously it may have more hedges.

Imagine you are a detachment commander in Napoleonic times and also a Company Commander in WW2, approaching from the North. Your mission is to capture the Manor.

What isn't obvious from maps, Google Earth or even street view is 2 things.

1) The hedges either side of the road are traditional 'Laid hedges', where the stems of the hawthorn bushes are bent and interwoven along the length. This makes it extremely resilient- they've been doing this for generations (sadly not so much in the late 20th cent)

2) That field in front of the manor- theright hand side is EXTREMELY bumpy- thats why no tractor marks. There are a couple of folds in the ground that are 4-5 feet high- you could hide a section or 2 in there.

The Napoleonic commander is going to march south, deploy into line then advance, maybe using lights/legere/jager etc to winkle out the buildings and pioneers to put gaps in the hedges.

The WW2 commander has a completely different problem. He has to cross open ground- so extended order. I'd probably aim for the small wood to the North East – the left of the attack In the wood the formation would close up. He then needs to neutralise the two cottages: this may require a close assault. Then he will need to re-orient the company to attack his objective. All this will have numerous changes in footprint, a fact his Napoleonic comrade didn't need to worry about

(As a side note, if you go east along the road into the village, just before the right hand bend into the village proper you will see a small copse on the south of the road. As a kid I defended/assaulted that wood many times in games of 'War'. We even went through a Napoleonic phase, where you had to 'reload your musket' after every shot!)

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