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©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
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Footslogger21 Jul 2017 8:23 a.m. PST

I've just finished reading a new (well, new to me) memoir by a British tank troop commander in NW Europe, 44-45. Speaking recently to a retired tank officer, he told me this book is now required reading for new troop commanders in his old regiment.

It's "Tank Action" by David Render, with Stuart Tootal. Render became a brand-new replacement troop commander in the Sherwood Rangers on D + 5, and fought through to the end of the war.

There are a number of lessons I think he wants his readers to take away.

The first is that inspiring leadership (in this case, by his squadron commander) and good tactics can do much to negate a technical disadvantage against German tanks.

Another is that you don't advance against a defended hedgerow or wood edge without giving it a thorough going-over with HE and MG fire first, for up to 15 minutes.

Yet another is that you don't need to achieve a penetrating AP hit on an enemy tank. Fire HE instead, damage its tracks and optics, and it's as good as knocked out.

Finally, get a whole troop to pound a single target until the crew's morale cracks and they abandon their vehicle.

I'm struggling to think of a set of WW2 rules that reflect these historical practices, particularly speculative suppressive fire, and crew morale tests where a hit, but not a kill, has been achieved.

Any suggestions?

Northern Monkey21 Jul 2017 8:31 a.m. PST

Chain of Command. The Shock system replicates that exactly.

coopman Supporting Member of TMP21 Jul 2017 8:47 a.m. PST

Flames of War with its "Bail Out" result from enemy fire.

pzivh43 Supporting Member of TMP21 Jul 2017 9:26 a.m. PST

Battlegroup WW2 uses Suppressive Fire quite well to cause a Pin, then if it is hit again, a failed morale check will destroy it. Although most people I've played with just want to fire Aimed Fire and kill things!

Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP21 Jul 2017 9:30 a.m. PST

Fistful of TOWs: you can suppress an enemy or cause a quality check which may result in that unit be ing out of action for the rest of the game (not necessarily destroyed).

surdu2005 Sponsoring Member of TMP21 Jul 2017 10:03 a.m. PST

I am partial, but I think that Combat Patrol does a pretty good job of this.

4D Jones Inactive Member21 Jul 2017 10:36 a.m. PST

I wonder if Render took over from Keith Douglas, who was killed on the 9th of July. His monograph on the Desert fighting -From Alamien to Zem-Zem is well worth a read.

Vigilant21 Jul 2017 10:52 a.m. PST

Many systems use suppression (or similar name) to achieve this. I've also read Render's book and would highly recommend it. In the UK it is available in paperback in the bargain chain Just Books, well worth getting. The fight between his squadron commander and a Tiger at close range is especially interesting.

Personal logo Ed the Two Hour Wargames guy Sponsoring Member of TMP21 Jul 2017 11:25 a.m. PST

NUTS or NUTS Hell Hath No Fury covers this exactly. Each crew member has their own Reputation (how well they are trained and morale).

The rules were written with extensive consultation and input from an actual tank commander in real life (TM). There was no way I could justify writing them from my own point of view of what should happen as opposed to someone who actually fought with them in real battles.

The rules reward good tactics and part of that is as you mentioned about hedgerows and well as moving through cities.

4D Jones Inactive Member21 Jul 2017 1:21 p.m. PST

…9th June.

Personal logo ColCampbell Supporting Member of TMP21 Jul 2017 1:52 p.m. PST

But D+5 would be 11 June.


VVV reply21 Jul 2017 2:54 p.m. PST

Action All Fronts (playtest version below) see p21
PDF link
But one of the big problems not mentioned in most rules is spotting the target to be shot at (although not so difficult when the target is a tank).
Gen. Patton was a great fan of speculative fire at any cover likely to have enemy in it. Difficult to manage on a wargames table but Action All Fronts has Hidden Units (p27) where a defending player can put down two markers, each of which could be a hidden unit. To make an enemy reveal a unit, spot it or drop artillery on it.

Tony S21 Jul 2017 3:38 p.m. PST

Like VVV Reply says, very few wargame rules cover speculative fire, since as miniature gamers we tend to use miniatures a lot! Some systems use blinds or hidden deployment, but it's not quite the same.

The only games I've played where players were indeed fumbling around blindly and were indeed truly using speculative fire, was when I was an umpire for a few double blind games of SPI's Sniper. We had two identical maps, each player was in a different room, and only knew of the enemy when they actually were in LOS of them. One player used grenades to "scout" a suspicious house. No Germans were in there, but I told the Russian player that he did not hear any screams, so it was probably empty. And I told the German player that apparently someone was throwing grenades into the house down the road!

Most games have something for tank crews bailing.

But your first point is also quite rare, about inspiring leadership. I think the Too Fat Lardies emphasis on "Big Men" hit that tactical nail squarely and accurately on the head. Games like FoW or Battlegroup, not so much in my opinion.

Personal logo Ed the Two Hour Wargames guy Sponsoring Member of TMP21 Jul 2017 5:31 p.m. PST

Here's a Bat Rep.


mkenny21 Jul 2017 6:15 p.m. PST

The only 'new' thing in that book is the revelation the CO had a 'breakdown' and it was covered up until he got over it. The book itself is clearly written by two people. The veteran who gives his 'feelings' about the war and a co-author who supplies well know details from the Unit and various statistics/facts about combat losses casualties etc to weave into the narrative.To me they just do not sit well together.

4D Jones Inactive Member22 Jul 2017 1:49 a.m. PST

Douglas was killed on 9th June. Render took up his posting two days later. Perhaps he had to get down from the beach to the Regiment, which at that time was somewhere on the Bayeux – Caan road?

Footslogger22 Jul 2017 2:18 a.m. PST

Render states that Douglas was the Sqn 2 i/c, not a troop commander, and that he was killed making a recce on foot.

Render replaced someone else, an ordinary troop commander.

The Sherwood Rangers had very bad luck in their first days ashore, with RHQ taking a direct hit, killing the CO, the adjutant and the intelligence officer.

There was a lot of shuffling up to replace the losses. Render's new squadron commander, a 23 year-old captain, moved across from being Technical Adjutant.

Men grew up fast in those days.

Footslogger22 Jul 2017 2:22 a.m. PST

Anyway, thanks for your suggestions on rules, I'll look into some of them.

jdginaz22 Jul 2017 2:44 a.m. PST

Both "I Ain't Been Shot Mum" and "Chain of Command" by TooFatLardies use a system of cumulative damage & shock to reflect the type of armor combat you mention.

UshCha22 Jul 2017 4:15 a.m. PST

We have had suppressive fire since day one (Maneouver Group on Wargamesvault). I have never understood the reticence to at least use blinds, however as the players get better thre use is less helpful as it's often easy to guess which ones are blinds as they are often badly placed). In serious games hidden units at the start of the game are only marked on a map and when they disappear for a length of time they are removed and map marked again. Even with out speculative suppressive fire it takes a lot to be certain you have suppressed the potential enemy.

With regard to tactics, at the outset we had restricted visibility for buttoned up tanks which forces folk to deploy more credibly.

While inspired leadership and expert leadership is true in the real world, wargames rules can't make a poor tactician a good one. Similarly it's not possible to make a player inspiring if he is not. Therefore we accept that these are parameters that cannot be modelled adequately, adding daft die rolls is not a credible solution in my opinion.

4D Jones Inactive Member22 Jul 2017 4:26 a.m. PST

Many thanks for the clarification, Footslogger. I haven't read Render's book.
Douglas was an acting captain when he was killed. He had been on a foot recce, but was killed by a mortar shell fragment back inside the tank laager.

4D Jones Inactive Member22 Jul 2017 4:29 a.m. PST

…Oh. BTW, 'Disposable Heroes …' rules deal with some of the points you've raised.

number4 Inactive Member22 Jul 2017 8:02 p.m. PST

Battlegroup rules don't 'reflect' those conditions as such, but leave it up to you, the tabletop commander.

You will find it hard to do anything successfully unless you use those principles of preparation and suppressive area fire with combined arms tactics.

Andy ONeill24 Jul 2017 2:25 p.m. PST

Ime you need to be careful with prophylactic fire.
Yes, this was used so allowing it is realistic.
The gaming table is usually a pretty small chunk of the real world though.
The player knows there will definitely be enemy on that table somewhere.
That can be compounded with a groundscale out of proportion to miniatures can result in unattractive results.
Make sure there's a downside of some sort and that direct sighted fire is substantially more effective.

VVV reply24 Jul 2017 2:53 p.m. PST

I would use ammunition supply rules to stop too much blasting away that anything that might have an enemy in it.
Like everything though, its a game, so we don't want to get too blogged down with complex rules.
One of our gamers once planned to run a WW2 desert campaign when supply (obviously vital in that theatre) was going to be covered in detail. My response was that I wanted to fight, not be a quartermaster.

UshCha25 Jul 2017 11:55 p.m. PST

Thre are more simple ways round with decent rules. One is to make suppression fire less effective so it takes quite a volume of firepower and some time to be effective. Warqames should always have some form of penalty for taking too long to complete a bound (adds more fun and the fog of war and stress with an absolute minimum of rules) and number of bounds to complete the game, again stopping unrealistic tactics).

One problem is that if your rules work on only playing 6 bounds or less in an eveing it is hard to have much much flexibility. However in 6 boumds its hard to do much anyway, so thre are proabley much bigger problems anyway.

Skarper Inactive Member26 Jul 2017 12:03 a.m. PST

Lack of fog of war is the biggest barrier to reality in wargames. And wargamers hate fog of war. Sometime you win because the enemy just don't know how weak you are. That feels like cheating to many competitive wargamers.

We want our toys on the table too.

Blinds are a good idea but do not go far enough. In reality every tree, house, hedge and patch of dead ground could be hiding a threat.

If you are going to allow speculative fire you need to use ammo supply limits. That kind of fire uses up ammo at a prodigious rate. A few rounds at a clear target is one thing. 10-15 rounds of HE to plaster a treeline is another matter. You also often don't get any response, so keep firing just in case. Troops also prefer sitting and shooting to moving about. Actually, they are most fond of hiding and not attracting unwelcome attention, but if forced to do something they will shoot rather than move.

No experience of this in real life but everything I've read seems to back this up.

One of the things I think most games fail to model is that troops have an innate level of inertia. They won't do anything if they don't have to.

Reasons for this are manifold.

The troops are tired. Even at the start of a battle how long were they in the forming up area and how much sleep did they get? Most people never know the meaning of 'tired' that combat troops live with daily.

They are scared. They are brave too, but being brave is also tiring. You run out of courage after a time and need to recharge your batteries.

They are inexperienced. Levels of training in WW2 were rudimentary for most and replacements got almost no battle drill training. A unit in the line for a long time would have a lot of replacements mixed in who might not have had any real training/experience. They have just done basic fitness and weapons training.

Experienced troops are often unwilling to take unnecessary risks. This is hard to model. They will fight like lions if they have to, but if they don't have to they will keep their heads down or even run away to fight another day.

People don't like responsibility. Those in command often are reluctant to act on their own initiative, lest it results in a disaster. Better to let others make the decisions.

The prewar German training never penalized or criticized any exercising of initiative however it turned out. This was to encourage the troops to be aggressive and take responsibility. It is easy to imagine the stolid British and French systems having exactly the opposite effect but I don't know if this is just prejudice. Same goes for the Soviets.

I understand a lot of what we 'know' comes from self-serving German accounts. So the usual caveats apply.

uglyfatbloke26 Jul 2017 2:04 a.m. PST

x2 for Skarper..and excellent post.

Blutarski26 Jul 2017 2:07 p.m. PST

ufb wrote -
"x2 for Skarper..and excellent post."

Quite concur …..


Bozkashi Jones26 Jul 2017 2:47 p.m. PST

Agreed, Skarper, but if I could just add one refinement…

I can only speak for British infantry sections, but the training for me was that if the cpl was hit, the lance jack took over. If he was hit, the senior rifleman took over. Section/Platoon attacks were fairly formulaic (find, fix, flank, finish) so, once under way, they would reach a conclusion as the dye was already cast and everyone already knew what they were meant to do.

Where I agree wholeheartedly is once the section has completed its task it will not usually do anything more unless told to, for all the reasons you cite above.

So I suppose that leaves us with two things inertia as you say, where no one really wants to take the decision or put themselves in danger, but then also momentum which will carry them through once they are engaged, providing the return fire doesn't make this futile.

Once the objective is achieved then yep time for a brew and a ciggy until, in IABSM terminology, one of the 'Big Men' gets them going again.

And my caveat: Yep, did infantry training in the days of separate MG/Rifle sections but never saw combat, so this could all just be my theory.

Interesting thread, cheers – oh, and thanks Footslogger; I've ordered the book.


womble67 Supporting Member of TMP29 Jul 2017 6:45 a.m. PST

I use Rapid Fire Rules. Hope it helps.

As always, comments are appreciated.

Take care


uglyfatbloke29 Jul 2017 7:50 a.m. PST

x2 for Bozkashi.

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