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"Fighting Battles, a misuse of skirmish rules?" Topic

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1,101 hits since 28 Jun 2017
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Ponder Supporting Member of TMP29 Jun 2017 11:33 a.m. PST


I often see folks often try to fight larger battles with rules portrayed as squad level, or skirmish level rules.

Why does this happen? Why not use rules developed to fight the desired level of conflict? A perfectly good game bogged down because too much is attempted.

I'd be interested to see if others have observed this. Thoughts/comments.

Ponder on,


79thPA Supporting Member of TMP29 Jun 2017 11:42 a.m. PST

The same thing happens with colonials and TSATF. Some gamers are bound and determined to break a rule set because of the "bigger is better" mentality.

Ran The Cid29 Jun 2017 11:56 a.m. PST

A few of us set out to play Kursk at a convention using Bolt Action rules. The intent was to play 4v4 with about 8000 points per side, we wound up playing 2v2 with about 4000 points per side. The game was a huge drag and we finally called it when the Germans snatched defeat from the jaws of victory when a bad scatter caused their own artillery took out 6 German units.

We came back the next year with a tank only version of the game. This time the game was 2v3 with about 35 tanks on the table. All told, a much better game without all those pesky infantry getting in the way.

Now, to answer your question, why Bolt Action? Most folks are familiar with the rule set. It's easier to work around a bogged down game than it is to learn/teach a new rules set.

MajorB29 Jun 2017 1:12 p.m. PST

Why not use rules developed to fight the desired level of conflict? A perfectly good game bogged down because too much is attempted.

I quite agree!

28mm Fanatik29 Jun 2017 2:27 p.m. PST

People fight large battles using rules designed for smaller games because they prefer playing with larger miniatures. This is why 40K Apocalypse is more popular than Epic 40K. They expect the rules to accommodate their big toys ("miniatures") for larger battles and will not switch to a smaller scale for larger battles.

Field Marshal29 Jun 2017 2:43 p.m. PST

We run into this problem at my club all the time. Game bloat we call it. It can work as long as a player doesn't use anymore than they usually would in a one on one game. Four to five players a side controlling a platoon is fine. Divisions not so much.

uglyfatbloke Supporting Member of TMP29 Jun 2017 2:56 p.m. PST

It's a struggle to find a set of rules that works for companies in a realistic manner so people strip down platoon battle rules that more people are familiar with . It can work really well with Bolt Action if you find a mechanism for issuing order dice.

Lee49429 Jun 2017 3:48 p.m. PST

If you want large battles try my rules Skirmish Action. They were specifically written to be what I call (probably incorrectly) "scale agnostic". The rules speak in terms of Models not tanks or figures and a "Model" can represent a single figure. Fire team. Or even squad or platoon. Now that might not seem like it works. But it does and gives simple yet realistic results using 1 or several figures per base where an AFV model represents from 1 to many tanks. Combat Results were chosen carefully to be applicable to one or more troops or tanks per "model". I did this because I like playing battles of different sizes. From really small ones like in the tv series Combat to platoon/company sized like in Band of Brothers to mega battles like Kursk. But I got tired of learning and using multiple rules sets.

Now the purists will say rules must be designed for a certain scale, squad level, platoon level, company level etc. I disagree. When distilled down to their essence the same criteria hold for all levels of combat. Let's take command and control for example. Many systems use different values and often dice rolls to reflect training, or skill, or leadership, or morale and motivation. Distilled to its essence command and control means will your troops do what you tell them to do when you tell them to do it. If they don't does it really matter if they didn't because they couldn't (skill), were afraid to (morale) or never got the order (communications). So my rules use only one factor – Combat Quality or Q rating – as a comprehensive measure of all those individual factors. The better your Q rating the more likely your troops are to perform as ordered when ordered. That same reasoning works whether you're gaming at the squad, platoon, company or even division level.

Cheers! Lee

Joe Legan Supporting Member of TMP29 Jun 2017 5:43 p.m. PST

Agree with you. Skirmish rules play great at skirmish size. I pondered this several years ago on my blog…



Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP29 Jun 2017 5:48 p.m. PST

I while back I offered copies of a play test version of some rules. Designed for a paltoon per side with maybe 1 or 2 vehicles max.

First question i was asked: how would it handle a company of tanks per side?


UshCha Supporting Member of TMP29 Jun 2017 5:55 p.m. PST

we never go huge but we do occasionally fight battalion and even bigger where the time period is extended so not all of the large unit fights at once. We do this as most big battle rules get spacing and size wrong so skirmish type rules which can get a good approximation are better.

A platoon in defense can be spaced out up to 1000m instead of over a typical 250m (covering 500m front). This is difficult to do without lots of Sabot bases. Similarly its hard to represent a Company of tanks that can be spread out over 1km, when with alternate positions 50m apart are required. Similarly a company on the march can be at 4 vehicles per mile to avoid the worst excess of air attack. Even at a more reasonable spacing of say 100mon the march a company may be nearly 1km in length. These formations are critical if you are doing big battles which need by definition to cover from the Forward Edge of Battle to the Engagement area. Thereis no point (personal opinion of course) doing a big battle if you do not cover all phases. Other wise its just a lot of skirmish games with none of the decision making like who gets the artillery, where it is placed, where to you rearm and who takes over when the first company is spent. Skimish rules can go some way but though not ideal, its the best way to get a "Big Game". However it does take several eveings to play and requires a lot more work as you have to think platoon to Regiment, which is much harder and even very simple logistics rules makes what you do more constrained and is not for those just wishing to throw die and "Kill Stuff".

gisbygeo29 Jun 2017 9:39 p.m. PST

I remember back in the day, getting feedback on TRWNN that it was 'too slow with 50 figures on the table.'

Well nurh….

Martin Rapier29 Jun 2017 10:11 p.m. PST

Wrt the OP, because it is human nature to push the boundaries? It is also much easier to play a game with a set of rules you know than learn something new.

Back in the day, we did Waterloo with WRG 16xx to 18xx. My one concession to the size battle was to double the troop scale. Was it a daft idea? Probably.
Was it a really good fun group effort (even if I took all weekend to play)? Absolutely.

The French won:)

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP30 Jun 2017 6:44 a.m. PST

"Bogged down." "Determined to break a rules set."
Whole lot of negativity here, Man.

Are you saying that players should not be allowed to play games at a level other than what the author intended?

I put on a game of Gloire once, called "Rescue Roddy McCorley" with many players, each commanding 10 figures, and hordes of npc figures.
Gloire is meant for two players, commanding 4 figures max.
The game did not drag, no rules were omitted and everyone had fun.

Play what you want and how you want.
If it's too big, you will learn quickly and not do it the next time. Or maybe you will not learn. grin

79thPA Supporting Member of TMP30 Jun 2017 7:34 a.m. PST

Stop being obtuse; you know exactly what is meant, and what the results are. You are free to do as you please.

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP30 Jun 2017 8:07 a.m. PST

I think the reason people want to play large games with set of skirmish rules is that, it is easier than learning yet another set of rules. Lets instead make it work for multiplayers.

Our club is experiencing the same issue. A huge portion of our members have become addicted to Bolt Action. Now that is not necessarily a bad thing. Better than 40K taking over your historical gaming club (happened to me years ago, it was ugly).

They are now obsessed with points, perfectly balanced battles and tournaments. So I join in and participate, even though I am not spending any more money on it.

BA is a rule set best played one on one and these guys are wanting to do larger battles and we have. During the game you have a lot of guys standing around waiting for something to happen.

BA is not well suited for multiple players. No doubt someone will chime in and say "we played a game with 20 players and it worked fine". That's great, but it doesn't sway me.

I like big multiplayer games. I think you need to have another set of rules for that. I am looking into Command Decision or Spearhead. But if you want to do BA with 20 players, then have fun and let me know how you pulled it off.

ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP30 Jun 2017 8:35 a.m. PST

The trend toward larger games is almost inevitable. Squad-level games which are played that way will have basically the same forces (a few infantry squads with a couple of support weapons) every time and soon become dull. Plus add in the fact that squad-level actions simply don't matter in the larger scheme of things. Players want to feel that their victories can change the tide of the war--and gosh, that takes at LEAST a company :) Finally, if you are into group play, as many folks are, then you are obliged to deal with larger forces unless you are going to limit each player to a single squad.

ordinarybass Supporting Member of TMP30 Jun 2017 4:37 p.m. PST

When folks have more toys they want bigger battles.

I think alot of folks also unconsciously fall into the trap of being overly committed to one set of rules despite all logic.

The 40k apocalypse example is very appt. Giant games in 28mm look great but for heavens sake use a ruleset designed for the scope you are playing! Epic 40k rules are free and all you have to do is scale up the distances.

uglyfatbloke Supporting Member of TMP02 Jul 2017 2:30 a.m. PST

It's quite easy to have fast-moving Bolt Action games with lots of players. You just make the players responsible for their own dice and have an 'Umpire's Bag' with the requisite number of dice for each side. When a 'red' die is drawn, all the 'red' players deploy one die. If players issue a platoon order then naturally a point will come when a 'red' die is drawn, but they've nothing left to move.
We generally use a deck of however many cards rather than a 'umpire bag' and we've also found that limiting the players to 8 to 10 dice each regardless of how many units they have works very well. It's quite ordinary for us to have to have 6 or 8 players and frequently there will be more players on one side that the other when we have attack-defence games.
There's a bit of footage of one of our games in progress on the youtube War HQ channel .

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