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"Ultramodern Engagement Ranges on the Table Top" Topic

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Rod I Robertson Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member19 Feb 2017 6:09 a.m. PST

To the wise Magi of TMP:

I recently read that most engagements between Coalition ground forces and insurgents happens at ranges of between 500 -1500 meters. The breakdown given was 50% of engagements between 500 -1500 m, 30% between 300 500 m and only 20% under 300 m. Given these very long ranges, of which at least 50% are beyond the range of most hand-held infantry weapons, except MG's, mortars and heavy caliber weapons, how do gamers reflect these long ranges on the table?

I use 15mm minis and vehicles and usually use a ground scale of 1cm = 2m/1 inch = 5m or 1cm = 4m/1 inch = 10m on an 8' X 6' table. I am loath to use a logarithmic range system as that kind of spatial distortion is too mind-bending for my rather dim-witted brain. Using terrain to limit the ranges of most engagements is one option that has worked but as one chases the insurgents out into the hilly wilderness this becomes less of a viable option. So what's a gamer to do? Do I just ignore the realities of modern war and "bath-tub" the ranges to fit the table or is there another approach which I have not yet considered? Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you in advance for any suggestions or comments on this.

Cheers and good gaming.
Rod Robertson

John Armatys19 Feb 2017 6:52 a.m. PST

I use 4 inches = 100m on a 6' x 4' table. My rules "Boots on the Ground" are in Nugget 274 which can be found here: link

Cosmic Reset Inactive Member19 Feb 2017 7:15 a.m. PST

I game with 15mm miniatures at 1:1 representation, and generally perceive the actual scale to be somewhere between 8 and 9 feet per inch. 1/100 is an generally accepted scale, and the one that I use to build my terrain in. I typically game on a 9'x6' table.

I've actually settled on using three different range scales with my 15mm figures, depending on the scope of the battle; 1"=5m, 1"=10m, or 1"=20m.

Particularly at the last scale, you do get some anomalies with buildings sizes and whatnot, but it is a compromise that I live with. Unfortunately, I have nothing innovative to solve the problem.

Rod, What is this thing that you speak of, a "cm"?

M C MonkeyDew19 Feb 2017 7:17 a.m. PST

I don't let the size of the figure interfere with how much scale real estate the environment requires.

That does end up with things looking a bit odd with say Napoleonic 28mm figures exchanging volleys at 1" range if required. Ground scale takes care of figure to troop ratio.

That having beens said it gets a bit ropey with vehicles. As a tank model takes up the space of an entire formation.

You can see the downside of this in some photos of hub to hub tank charges a certain WWII game is known for.

That said fitting a given engagement on the table either requires flexible scaling or a supply of figures in every scale size from 54mm to 2mm.

Tactical board games are another way to go here. Less expensive than miniatures in several scales, with consequently less esthetic joy.

Speaking only for myself of course.


Jcfrog Supporting Member of TMP19 Feb 2017 9:14 a.m. PST

Usually they don't.
Play only (too) close fire fights, forget mostly indirect weapons who do most of the killing. The disconnected fighting to avoid casualties.
A modern ( against these scums, wpould have to be way different against a " proper" real army) fight is no Kharkov 42, in the rare case it might it is often regarded as a failure.
So it is often not so good for gamers. Or sometimes one might get away with some by having those most vital support weapons off table firing.
I did play a lot of FOF just to say. Some of those who " were there" objected to just many of these subjects.

Personal logo Weasel Supporting Member of TMP19 Feb 2017 1:01 p.m. PST

Most gamers aren't too keen on playing a scenario where after 3 hours of fire, the body count is 7 dead plus a goat.

Move stuff closer and make it more dramatic :-)

Failure16 Inactive Member19 Feb 2017 4:45 p.m. PST

Yeah, Weasel has the right of it. In that scenario, I was playing the goat and I got it in the neck on the last turn. Boring stuff, indeed.

On the other hand, with proper terrain, perhaps max engagement range for infantry skirmishes might not be such an issue (as adroitly pointed out in the initial post, but still)? I think a lot of the long distances encountered in Afghanistan (but not so much in Iraq or other garden spots) were because of the terrain…tall ridges allow for better fields of fire, after all.

Or just go the Crossfire or The Crucible route and have pretty much anything on-table as in-range.

Martin Rapier20 Feb 2017 12:10 a.m. PST

As above, at ranges over 400m they basically just exchanging area fire.

Good fun for people who like to throw dice, but not very tactically interesting.

So just ignore it, and play the closer range firefights. I play John's rules, and 12" to 100m works fine for company level actions.

Rod I Robertson Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member20 Feb 2017 5:22 a.m. PST

Thanks to all who have responded so far. Perhaps more clarity on my part in describing what I have done and what I wish to do will make the conversation more vibrant and deliver a better chance to focus on what I want to do. I play single-based infantry games using use Nordic Weasel's/Ivan's NEIS for small engagements of fire-team to a couple of sections per side, FoF for larger games of platoon to pseudo-company strength (for the insurgents only) and I am trying to adapt (unsuccessfully to date) the old Battlegroung WWII rules system for a modern milieu.

I want to explore the more long range combat along with manoeuvre to close contact in ultramodern warfare. I play 1:1 figure and vehicle ratios and want to do some scenarios where Insurgents have to try to close with Coalition forces which are using heavy weapons like MG or AGL armed Humvee's, MRAP's or UK Jaguars. I also wan't to better simulate distant over-watch fire from heavy weapons and snipers during close combat between Coalition forces and insurgents at close range. I've got all sorts of technicals and heavy weapons for the insurgents which I would like to see deployed and used realistically in distant support of close combat and an even wider range of support for the Coalition forces.

Oh, and Weasel, do I really have to paint up and deploy goat herds to each and every game? Irishserb "cm" stands for "called metric". John Armatys: Alas, the link is password-protected and I am not a member, so despite your generous offer to peruse the rules and Martin R's strong recommendation your efforts remain a mystery to me. But thank you for offering them up nonetheless.

Thanks in advance again for any ideas you might have again.

Cheers and good gaming.
Rod Robertson.

Just Jack Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member20 Feb 2017 7:06 a.m. PST


You need a big table with small minis.

You need a D20 or a D100 to hit (hitting on a 20 or 98-100, respectively).

You need a rules mechanism to determine when the insurgents decide to leave.

You need a rules mechanism for IEDs, both as a means to initiate the contact and along avenues Coalition Forces might use to flank/encircle the insurgent positions.

You need a rules mechanism for JTACs calling in CAS, specifically building in delays for target identification, asset being chopped to the JTAC, and for receiving command authorization to actually drop ordnance on target (not some ridiculous 'show of force').

A normal game is a CF mounted patrol moving onto the table. It either detonates an IED or spots one and calls a halt. Insurgents begin firing with Dshk, RPG, maybe RCL and 82mm mortar, from the far end of the table.

If initial IED caused numerous casualties, CF player forms perimeter, conducts CASEVAC (helo), then goes home, hopefully not taking any more casualties in the process.

If CF player doesn't take casualties and insurgents are shooting, CF player forms base of fire and sends enveloping element out. Now it's a race to see if the enveloping element will cut off the insurgents from escaping, will they run into an IED, or will they run into a village the insurgents ran into and are hiding in. Oh, and did the JTAC get a JDAM onto the insurgents before they left their initial ambush positions.

For this game you don't even really need insurgent figures, just the CF player takes 'x' attacks each turn.


M C MonkeyDew20 Feb 2017 7:18 a.m. PST

An obvious but not necessarily visually striking approach is to play out the larger engagement on maps, moving to the table top for the close in sort of thing that makes up the majority of what passes for Ultra-Modern gaming.

With you on the kind of game experience you are looking for.


Just Jack Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member20 Feb 2017 7:38 a.m. PST


That's my approach. I follow units through campaigns, but I don't take every single thing to the tabletop. There are theoretically a million times something happens: an administrative movement that gets strafed by an enemy plane, or someone steps on a land mine. The troops have just crossed the Line of Departure and begin taking mortar or artillery fire. A patrol takes sniper fire.

I don't game that, I only game the parts where decisive combat occurs.

It keeps me sane ;)


Tired Mammal20 Feb 2017 8:51 a.m. PST

I have this idea that has been slowly forming since I first played FOW that it should be possible to avoid the logarithmic range issue by playing the game in two scales at once. Initially this was that the game area should have a couple of off table areas for artillery so you can have your models on the table but they are only vulnerable to counter battery fire not rifle fire.

To explain and expand this further, take a standard 6 x 4 table. Have the middle 4 x 4 part as your battlefield map and use markers for your units, be it 6mm, 3mm models or just err.. cardboard markers. One each side would then have space for say 16, 6" x 6" squares on each table end where you would deploy your units. Each square would correspond to a marker.

All ranges would be calculated on the main centre map but unit orientation would be as they are deployed in their own box. As the units are spotted they could be given appropriate terrain to match their deployment on the centre map.

This would also open up the possibilities of dummy units, spotting options and general fog of war without too much complexity. You could also show the differences between leg and motorised units due to the bigger ground scale and rear echelon units such as HQs and vehicle parks would have roles.
The objectives could be on the side area as well for close scale work or a separate table for all the smaller scale deployments if the scenario warranted it.

I suspect that most rule sets would require little change apart from possibly weapon ranges and movement but I am sure the games would play quite differently. There might even be a rule set out there that does this.

Now just to set it up for a solo game to test and refine the concepts before unleashing it on some victims at the club, sorry club members.

M C MonkeyDew20 Feb 2017 9:36 a.m. PST

Interesting. While working on the first edition of Nuts!, I toyed with using square sections of table about the outer edge of the main playing area, as staging areas that allowed for a sort of operational background.

For example the main table in NUTS! is 3x3 square. If you picture that in the center of a 5x5 grid, that gives an outer ring of 14? squares where things like movement of off table forces and artillery barrages could happen.

Should work for any set of rules with a little work.

Didn't pursue it as there was insufficient interest in it and other projects beckoning.

Steve Wilcox20 Feb 2017 10:04 a.m. PST

John Armatys: Alas, the link is password-protected and I am not a member, so despite your generous offer to peruse the rules and Martin R's strong recommendation your efforts remain a mystery to me. But thank you for offering them up nonetheless.
I use 4 inches = 100m on a 6' x 4' table. My rules "Boots on the Ground" are in Nugget 274 which can be found here: link

And what it says there is:
"NUGGETs 274 to 282 can be downloaded as PDF files here. The password required to download these issues is artemis."

So if you go here: PDF link and type in artemis… :)

Rod I Robertson Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member20 Feb 2017 1:20 p.m. PST

Steve Wilcox:

Well, I guess I'm an illiterate moron incapable of of following the most basic instructions! Man, do I feel stupid right now. Thanks for pointing out what should have been apparent to anybody but a complete imbecile. I have now read the rules through and found them a good guide to what I might end up doing.

Tired Mammal and MC Monkeydew:

Great ideas, I'm stealing them! Thanks for your inspiration.

Just Jack:

I agree with the D20 based outcomes mechanism. Most fire will be either aimed fire from distant sources or 'blind' suppressive fire from infantry and on table MG's until someone acquires a target for direct fire. I can expand my gaming table to either 10 or 12.5 feet by 7.5 feet so by cutting off a cordon of one foot around the table edge to put support weapons/snipers into off-table boxes I can get long ranges without using a logarithmic range system.

To All:

If I make a cordon of 12 inches around the table's edge and divide that cordon into six-inch boxes then that will provide me with two rows of stand-off space and either an 8 foot by five and a half foot playing area or a ten and a half by five and a half playing area. The cordon's inner row of boxes would be areas up to 500 m from the base line and the second rank would be areas up to 1000 m from the base line. Support weapons, sniper teams, etc. would be deployed to certain boxes using hidden deployment and could include enemy OP's or recon teams infiltrated into the enemy's rear. Reinforcements or entering units would have to travel through such boxes before entering the table and might be spotted before they arrive.

Thank you all for your help. I have much to think about and plan now. Great ideas! Keep them coming if you have anything to add for as stated above I am a moron and need all the help I can get!

Cheers and good gaming.
Rod Robertson.

M C MonkeyDew20 Feb 2017 3:33 p.m. PST

Sounds great Rod!

SouthernPhantom20 Feb 2017 8:12 p.m. PST

I use 10mm (1/144) figures with a 2:1 ground:figure scale exaggeration. It allows me to get engagements nearly to the 1km range on the table. I use D20s for to-hit rolls, with cover forcing successful to-hit rolls to be re-rolled. Hit probabilities for small arms are realistically low; engagements usually consist of protracted firefights while each side tries to maneuver in for the assault. HE and crew-served weapons take the lethality up a few notches.

Small-scale miniatures are the best solution to this, in my opinion. They allow representation of relative effective ranges with minimal distortion. You really get a feel for the range advantages of MGs and DMRs, especially compared to carbines.

Tired Mammal21 Feb 2017 10:47 a.m. PST

Your welcome Rod,
I think the trick is to have the deployment areas as close as possible to the game area so that players can easily visualise them. I am also thinking that it might be possible to factor in reconnaissance and vehicle reliability as well without too much complexity for a full operational game experiance.

Yes I agree with you but my aging eyes do not.

Khaki0806 Mar 2017 10:15 a.m. PST

The old WRG 1950-1985 'Modern' rules suggested exactly this. Each player had a ribbon across their side of the table behind which was a 'rear' area with a compressed ground scale, where artillery, reserve units etc dwelt.

There is little new under the sun….

Apache 609 Mar 2017 11:11 a.m. PST


I think those long ranges may be correct, but reflect the 'average' nature of the fighting there and the Taliban rarely showing themselves as targets. I'd guess (but that is what it is) that the average ranges reflect a lot of fleeting engagements with the coalition forces trying to engage disengaging Taliban.

For gaming purposes I'd suggest that most "interesting" engagements would be at closer range. Often initiated by IED attacks. Depending on when and where you are simulating the Taliban rarely massed numbers of fighters, since they understood the coalition would eventually bring enough firepower to bear to destroy the force.

When the Taliban made attacks they were often fairly effective at getting in close, largely due to having lots of time to conduct reconnaissance and observe operations. Sometimes these attacks would be literally suicidal. The infiltration of Camp Leatherneck where they destroyed several Harriers on the ground is a good example.

Ambushes against logistics convoys, the overrunning of squad sized combat outposts or checkpoints might be game-able on smaller sized tables. Conversely coalition raids to capture high value targets or ambush patrols against IED emplacers might be game-able.

If you wanted to reflect the often very confused nature of operations, you could task the Coalition forces with conducting a Shura or key leaders engagement with either a specific leader or the elders in a town. The coalition force would drive in, need to dismount and enter a building and stay for four hours, before driving out. The security force would secure the meeting in conjunction with the locals.

The "Coalition force would consist of a USMC or UK LtCol, his SgtMaj, a USAID worker (unarmed), and an interpreter, the personnel security detachment (mounted in 3 HMMWVs or MATVs or a couple Vikings for the UK) with mounted machine guns (one vehicle with a mine roller)) would be nine Marines and a Corpsman. An Afghan National Army or Police Colonel, his aide, and a ten man PSD mounted in 3 HMMWVs or even unarmored Ranger Pickup trucks with mounted PK MGs)

The threat forces who should most likely be played by the game host. Could be one "bad actor" among the local villagers, a rouge Afghan National Army soldier, a Taliban IED team, a Taliban sniper, or an attack by a 15 man detachment of Taliban. If you wanted to 'randomize it" I'd say on a percentage dice. 1-95% nothing happens, with each of the 'other threats appearing on rolls of 96 and above. Of course it would be boring game 95% of the time, but that would be a fairly close

The local population, including the security for the elders armed with AKMs would be a complication at least. A negligent discharge by either a local or an Afghan National Soldier would be a possible complication as would 'trash' which is suspected to be an IED.

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