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"Observations on Bolt Action from an old wargamer" Topic


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Warspite123 Jan 2018 9:20 a.m. PST

Some of this may have been discussed before but I am new to these rules.

I have been wargaming for more than 45 years and recently decided to get back into WW2, in 15mm, after a long break. I don't like the Flames of War approach so I have been looking at Bolt Action games on You Tube and have picked up a cheap copy of Bolt Action 1.0 which I have been reading and test playing at home. The rules suit me and I like the level of play and the mechanisms. However… the historian in me is noting a few things which do not add up:

RANGES:
Given that this is essentially a skirmish game on a table top then all ranges will have to be cut down and I acknowledge that the designers will have some difficult decisions in this regard. And the designers will be looking at effective combat ranges not extreme ranges. However the ranges BA arrives at are – to say the least – rather strange.

Vehicle flame-thrower is 18-inches (say 120 yards for a Churchill Crocodile) yet a shotgun is apparently supposed to be effective at the same 18-inch range while sub-machine guns can only make 12-inches despite firing multiple rounds. Surely shotgun should be less than 12-inches and vehicle flamethrower should be 12inches to match the sub-machine gun? I suggest 9-inches for shotgun to reflect the pistol's 6-inches.

Anti-tank rifles shooting to 36-inches? Most A/T rifles used simple iron sights and their ability to penetrate anything worthwhile beyond 'close-range' is poor. Surely if infantry rifles are shooting effectively to just 24-inches then an A/T rifle should be shooting to 18-inches max in BA and probably only 15 inches..

Bazooka and Panzerschreck shooting up to 24-inches? How? Most infantry A/T projectors had range and accuracy problems but I cannot see any making the same range as effective rifle fire. If the PIAT and Panzerfaust get 12-inches then the Bazooka and Panzershreck should be the same or 15-inches at the very most for being tube-launched. Looking at effectiveness, the PIAT fired a much wider bomb that the US bazooka and should be pen +6. Hollow charge penetration was dependent on calibre (width) which is why the Germans immediately upped the bazooka from 2.35-inch to 3.5-inch when they copied it. Also it should be noted that the PIAT is the only infantry anti-tank weapon which can be fired from inside a building, a bunker or a vehicle. It has no back-blast.

Assault rifles shooting at 24-inches, the same as the conventional bolt-action rifle? I doubt it. You lose barrel length with an assault rifle and the auto-fire function will make the gun jump more. If bolt-action rifles are shooting to 24-inches (which is quite reasonable) then assault rifles should be shooting at 18-inches maximum. They gain two shots but lose range and accuracy. That IS the trade-off with assault rifles as opposed to bolt-action rifles.

WEAPON USE:
Watching YouTube games so far, the MMGs seem to hose around like a garden sprinkler when most real MMGs were used on 'fixed lines', like small artillery pieces. I suggest that on fixed lines players can only achieve the maximum fire dice if firing on a straight line and a target then crosses a nominated line of fire.
The classic was to set up an MMG aiming down a road or at a gap between two buildings or a gap in a hedge. If anything crosses that line the target takes the maximum fire dice (4D6) or 5D6 if you are playing the Hitler's buzz-saw rule which I have heard about. If you have to swing the gun around and 'hunt' targets off the nominated line then you lose TWO fire dice that turn.
On fixed lines the MMG becomes an effective area denial weapon. Dare you move your squad between those two buildings knowing that a burst of machine-gun fire could rip through the gap at any minute? Instead you may go around the long way and the enemy MMG thus dictates that your squad arrives two moves later than you wanted it to.
Your 'fixed line' can also be a building or a hedgerow and you may claim full dice against that but, if you change target, you lose two dice on the next firing turn. Likewise you lose two dice on the first turn after moving the MMG itself.

If you play the Hitler's buzz saw rule, what about the US Garand? It was the only widely issued self-loading rifle. Surely that warrants a firepower advantage? If the MG42 gets an extra die what about one extra die for every FOUR Garands firing at the same target at less than 12-inches? So four riflemen roll five dice at under 12-inches. I am no fan of the U.S. army but I think the extra die is justified at close range.

TACTICS:
Ambush rules – as I read them in Bolt Action, the ambushing unit can still be fired upon and must change to 'down' if it comes under fire. However the main advantage of being in ambush is that the waiting unit cannot be seen or fired-at. No-one knows it is there! And being in ambush means it is already down… how much further 'down' can it get? In my view being in ambush automatically qualifies as 'down'.
I suggest that all infantry, infantry weapons and all guns up to 80mm calibre in terrain cover such as woods, all hedges, buildings, a hill crest, etc, may declare an ambush and may not be fired upon unless a unit gets behind said cover or above said cover. By 'above' spotters must be in upper-storey buildings or on hills within 12-inches.
Likewise all vehicles and guns greater than 80mm may go into ambush in woods, behind taller BOCAGE hedges or among buildings or behind a hill crest. They may be spotted at 18-inch range under similar circumstances.
I would add that an MMG on fixed lines can also be in ambush.

ASSAULT RULES:
The attackers melee FIRST and the surviving defenders only melee second?
In all my 45 years + of wargaming I have never found a set of rules where the attacker automatically melees first. The received wisdom is that melee is simultaneous. If anyone has an advantage in first melee isn't it the defender? Trip wires, barbed wire, mines, the last few hand grenades, claymore mines, etc. Plus the defenders know where the doors and windows are and where they lead-to – the attackers do not have that knowledge. Melee should be simultaneous with a slight advantage to defenders in cover such as buildings. Assaulting a building is a nightmare. Hand grenades bounce down stairs easier than being thrown uphill. Ask the Germans in Stalingrad who had the advantage… it was the defender!

Barry (Warspite)

Londonplod23 Jan 2018 9:56 a.m. PST

Barry, check out the Chain of Command rules videos on YouTube, l have played both sets and CoC is far superior to BA in many areas and have a much better feel of the period and encourages players to use realistic tactics in order to win and enjoy.

Night Owl III23 Jan 2018 9:59 a.m. PST

Granted I haven't looked much into second edition but when I was looking for a WWII system to settle into I found the ranges in Bolt Action to be a little too gamey. The scale seemed off a bit too. Everyone seems to be enjoying Battle Group around here.

whitphoto Supporting Member of TMP23 Jan 2018 10:18 a.m. PST

A number of these issues are ‘fixed' in v2. Close combat is silmutanious if defending an obstacle or building. If the attacker charges more than 6 inches the defender can fire if they haven't activated, ambush orders can be used on close combat attackers.

Mostly you probably want to play a game other than BA, CoC is a good choice as suggested.

Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP23 Jan 2018 10:18 a.m. PST

I always thought Bolt Action was a breezy, super-generic skirmish game that just happened to use WW2 models. You could swap them out for practically anything and get a fun game.

I've seen it used for Star Wars, the Old West, and Vietnam, for example.

If you want a game that is at *all* historical, look elsewhere.

The activation mechanic, for example, l=can lead to very strange a-historical events.

Neal Smith23 Jan 2018 10:21 a.m. PST

For skirmish, I second Chain of Command.

Major Mike23 Jan 2018 10:24 a.m. PST

I feel that BA is summed up by looking at dice count. Whoever has the most dice (maneuver units, shooting, etc.) will have a significant advantage to win.

Axebreaker23 Jan 2018 10:46 a.m. PST

Bolt Action is pretty much what Extra Crispy says in that it's a generic breezy game that can be used for almost any modern period. It's not a bad game and moves at very good pace, but if your looking for a more simulated WWII experience I would highly recommend Chain of Command.

Christopher

DeRuyter Supporting Member of TMP23 Jan 2018 10:50 a.m. PST

+1 Chain of Command

Your Kidding23 Jan 2018 11:08 a.m. PST

BA is a quick fix when my group gets the 28mm WW2 itch. The 2nd edition rules clean things up a little. And the longer ranges on the anti-tank guns I view as a way to keep tanks from over powering the game.

BalinBalan Inactive Member23 Jan 2018 11:10 a.m. PST

And you could try Chadwick's Men under Fire.

MajorB23 Jan 2018 11:33 a.m. PST

I gave up with Bolt Action and went back to Crossfire.

4th Cuirassier23 Jan 2018 12:05 p.m. PST

Can the ranges be perceived as logarithmic?

I'm not familiar with the ruleset, but if a tank can move 12 inches and shoot 36 inches, you could consider the first 12 inches of its gun-range to be 100 yards, the next 12 to be another 500 yards, and the last 12 inches to be 1,000 yards.

The move distance is then less out of whack with the gun range. What look like too-small differences in range then translate into much bigger differences on real ground. The flaw with such systems is that on three consecutive moves your tank is supposedly covering an ever-greater distance but on the other hand how often do you see tanks advancing like that in a game anyway? In 1/300 maybe, but in most skirmish-level-of-forces games I've played, the tanks don't charge hell for leather forward, they move cautiously and stop frequently, hence the type of move that would wreck the logic of the rules rarely happens.

Elderly (but fun) rulesets like Operation Warboard make much more sense if understood in this way. Of course the real reason for comedy ranges is so that everything can get into the game without dominating it, hence the need for ranges shorter than the table's width so manoeuvre outside gun range can be attempted.

Chain of Command looks interesting.

redmist112223 Jan 2018 12:20 p.m. PST

Another plug for Chain of Command if you want historical.

P.

YogiBearMinis Supporting Member of TMP23 Jan 2018 12:24 p.m. PST

I have always found the weapon shooting ranges for many Warlord game sets, and their predecessors, far too long for an enjoyable game.

ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP23 Jan 2018 12:38 p.m. PST

Warspite1, I certainly agree with you on some of the range issues. In an early game I played I was flabbergasted when a panzerschreck blew up my tank destroyer from 24" away. I had assumed that I was WAY out of range!

And I must also give a thumbs up to Chain of Command. It's not as quick or easy as BA, but it has a much more authentic feel.

Fred Cartwright23 Jan 2018 1:05 p.m. PST

Well about normal for TMP. Just tell the OP he is doing it wrong! :-)
To address your points Barry most of what you say sounds reasonable. Don't forget as well as firing on fixed lines MG's were also used as area denial weapons and in defence you would try and funnel attackers into killing zones where MG's firing from enfilade would do the killing.
As for the rifle/Assault rifle ranges it depends what the 24" represents. If it is effective rifle range of about 300m then I see no reason to reduce assault rifle range. The Stg44 was designed to be effective out to 400m which the Germans reckoned the bulk of infantry firefights were well within that range. Of course a full power rifle bullet would kill out to 2,000m+ well beyond the ability of the average infantryman to hit anything.
The rest of your adjustments look spot on.

Frothers Did It And Ran Away23 Jan 2018 1:17 p.m. PST

The issues you mention have in part been addressed by v2, I understand, but Chain of Command solves all of them and I suspect you would be happier with it.

zoneofcontrol23 Jan 2018 1:35 p.m. PST

Chain Of Command makes more sense to me.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP23 Jan 2018 2:10 p.m. PST

Purely an observation. OP says ranges in BA don't look right, and the consensus seems to be "you need CoC is harder to learn and less fun, but which gets the ranges right."

Well, maybe so, but is it impossible to to combine plausible distances with simple, easy to learn mechanics? Is this just "not done" or don't we know how to do it yet?

The more I read comments on the hot new modern skirmish rules, the more appealing Featherstone's "Simplified Modern Rules" becomes. If nothing else, (a) I already own them, (b) I don't have to buy the German and the US army books in order to play and (c) they won't be superseded by a new edition next year.

Frothers Did It And Ran Away23 Jan 2018 2:17 p.m. PST

I find COC much more fun that BA, mainly because you have more choices to make and I find it more absorbing. I don't think its more complex but the rules are less familiar to the average person than BA, so the learning curve is a bit steeper but nothing major. It does assume some WW2 knowledge on behalf of the players to get the best out of the mechanics, whereas anyone could pick up BA and be on an equal footing with the hairiest old grognard.

Pizzagrenadier23 Jan 2018 2:58 p.m. PST

If we're piling on with the usual Chain of Command suggestions, I would argue it is overrated but much better than Bolt Action (which is a disaster as far as recreating WWII combat goes, but is great if you want Warhammer 1940k). CoC has a lot going for it, though I find the firefight mechanics a snore. It still does what all other systems at this scale do: set up a platoon against a platoon without regard for ground scale or unit frontage or how support weapons were used. Yeah, as those games go, CoC works.

I'd suggest, however, if you want a system that has actually put a lot of thought into placing WWII platoon combat into the context of the table top space and actually creates realistic platoon frontages and fog of war in a more genuine way, then take a look at Disposable Heroes II.

Neal Smith23 Jan 2018 3:48 p.m. PST

CoC is much more fun and is not that much harder to "get". It suffers from organizational issues with where parts of rules are found, but the rules are mostly solid.

TacticalPainter0123 Jan 2018 4:00 p.m. PST

Much depends on where your interest lies in this level of tactical combat. For those with an interest in command and control, the various rules offer very different approaches and therefore very variable outcomes.

BA relies on a random chit draw to determine activation. While this avoids the predictability of IGOUGO systems, activating a single unit during your phase means it is not possible to combine unit actions tactically in a meaningful or historical way. Not that it can't happen, but it requires the player to have the good fortune to pull dice at the right time and order. While some can live with this level of luck, others find it too hostage to fortune.

For some players it's mainly about the weapons, for others it's more about the men behind the weapons. For others it's about a cinematic, Hollywood feel, while for others it's about plausible historical outcomes.

In WWII most armies at platoon level were armed and organised along fairly similar lines. The combination of LMG team and rifle team only really varied in numbers of men and rate of fire of the LMG. For me the differentiator is in doctrine, leadership, tactics and training. So, that's what I will look for in a rule set.

In my experience BA players are very much about the game and less about historical outcomes, more about the cinematic than the simulation. Taken in that context I'd suggest you accept their rules as written and if they are not to your taste look for others. As you can see from this discussion, there is no shortage of WWII rule sets.

Warspite123 Jan 2018 5:39 p.m. PST

To all – thank you for responses so far and thank you to those who have tried to nudge the discussion back to Bolt Action.

@TacticalPainter01
"BA relies on a random chit draw to determine activation. While this avoids the predictability of IGOUGO systems, activating a single unit during your phase means it is not possible to combine unit actions tactically in a meaningful or historical way."

This is exactly what I was drawn to. In a perfect world we would like real battles to be conducted like a game of chess. In the real world, however, it is rarely possible to co-ordinate actions as much as we (or any army) would like.

If I end up writing my own rules then the Bolt Action dice will feature.

Do any other players favour my house rule on 'fixed lines' for MMGs?

kiltboy23 Jan 2018 6:17 p.m. PST

Not sure I'd agree with pizzagrenadier's assessment as I'm sure plenty of thought and research went into CoC and it models what the auuhor feels is important.
@pizzagrenadier aren't you the author of Dispossable Heroes, Disposable Heroes II?
Could it be your rules model what you think is important? Pretty sure not every engagement would fit a set assault area and stretched troops would be covering larger frontages that you suggest.

peterx Supporting Member of TMP23 Jan 2018 6:25 p.m. PST

I think Pizzagrenader's rules, Disposable Heroes 1 and 2 deal with the questions raised by Warspite far better than Bolt Action rules. I own both sets of DH and Bolt Action, and the modeling WWII combat is far better with DH. I have played CoC at wargame conventions and didn't care for the rules. Well, that is my two cents.

Pizzagrenadier23 Jan 2018 6:38 p.m. PST

Kiltboy: I'm sure a lot of thought went into CoC. I respect the authors and their research actually. Like I said, they got a lot right. I personally don't enjoy CoC much, not because it doesn't model combat well. It just isn't my cup of tea in the way the mechanics are worked out.

Yes I am the author of DH II. Nothing wrong with that. And I'm sure not every engagement fit the set assault area as you suggest. But it's one of the few sets around right now that takes that into consideration in a way that actually builds it into the system and forces players to use the size forces on a ground space that takes that aspect of platoon combat seriously. It's also built around a fog of war mechanic that brings all this together for an overall more accurate portrayal of platoon level action.

Not all battles are going to take place in those kinds of parameters, but shouldn't they be at least a starting point?

CoC is a fine game. I think the OP could enjoy DH II as well because it sounds like it covers things he is looking for. It's simply my opinion.

Pizzagrenadier23 Jan 2018 6:43 p.m. PST

Warspite: there's friction, and then there's randomness.

Friction is caused by the contact between forces and the interaction of leaders and men making decisions.

Randomness is just well… random.

Call me crazy, but I always felt like friction and fog of war should come from the interaction of forces, not simple randomness. Leaders might not always be able to get their men to do what they want, but random events don't cause that, opposing forces, terrain, and the situation do.

FABET0123 Jan 2018 7:15 p.m. PST

Friction can be caused by anything: weather, terrain, bad communications, equipment failures… a myriad of things too vast to account for in tabletop game. As such randomness is as fair as any game mechanic in representing it – maybe better. Any other usually way makes friction calculable and just as unrealistic.

Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP23 Jan 2018 7:53 p.m. PST

I do like some chaos in my games, but the randomness in Bolt Action is just too much.

Take a look at the Two Hour Wargames series of games and their activation system. It is my go-to for system for small skirmish actions.

In that game units activate by Leader "Rep" (aka ability/skill). You may activate or not, or only some may. But the reaction system whereby men don't always do what you want really works well.

There is a fre "lite" version. You could easily graft that activation system on to Bolt Action.

TacticalPainter0123 Jan 2018 10:02 p.m. PST

In a perfect world we would like real battles to be conducted like a game of chess. In the real world, however, it is rarely possible to co-ordinate actions as much as we (or any army) would like.

I couldn't agree more, but as others have mentioned BA mistakes randomness for friction. You might find Chain of Command provides the unpredictability you want but with a much more plausible outcome. You might find this article by the writer of CoC very informative in your search for the right rules toofatlardies.co.uk/blog/?p=508

jdginaz23 Jan 2018 10:44 p.m. PST

I also recommend Chain of Command and would suggest checking out this comparison of the two link

jdginaz23 Jan 2018 10:46 p.m. PST

And here is a complete game played on youtube

YouTube link

New Jersey Devil Inactive Member23 Jan 2018 11:51 p.m. PST

Battleground World War 2.

4th Cuirassier24 Jan 2018 3:42 a.m. PST

@ Warspite

I really like your fixed lines MG rule, which would work in pretty much any ruleset. All those I've ever used have worked on the principle of units in the line of MG fire dicing for its effect. Sometimes the effect is just killed / survived, sometimes it's more complex and includes results like pinned / suppressed / etc.

But I really like the idea that you have an MG ranged-in on a certain point that becomes less effective if it suddenly has to fire in an unexpected direction. Apart from anything else, it means there's an incentive / reward for a player who establishes an MG position over one who lets them all freelance around.

Warspite124 Jan 2018 4:45 a.m. PST

@4th Cuirassier
I got the idea while watching a newsreel video of a US water-cooled Browning team firing on an MMG mount in the Normandy bocage. The gunner was laboriously turning a small wheel at the rear of the mount to skew it just a few degrees off its current firing line.

It occurred to me that in swinging the gun:
a) the traversing wastes accurate firing time
b) it may then require ranging shots to establish a new line and range/elevation to the new target. This also wastes accurate firing time. Thus a player should lose at least two dice this turn.

While I have encountered stories of British Vickers machine guns being used in the 'hose-pipe' role – and the Soviet Russians certainly did – most photos of Vickers show them dug in and firing on one line, often with a split-image rangefinder located nearby nearby. This is sustained fire, at distance.
There are also hoary old stories about the Vickers battery which fired a million rounds in a day just to deny a route for German reinforcements during WW1. Most of these stories contain inaccurate details about how many guns and how reliable the Vickers was while doing it but the truth of these stories is that fixed lines was a valid use for an MMG and it DID work! A valid tactic.

Pick a spot, range on it with tracers and have your finger on the trigger ready for when you see any movement towards that spot. And if you want to deter the enemy from going that way, put 50 rounds down range every few minutes to make it clear what your intentions are.

Here's a Vickers set up on fixed lines in the desert. Note the elaborate 'artillery style' gun sight for long-range work:

picture

And this is the very image I was thinking of. Note the split-image range-finder next to the gun:

picture

Barry

basileus66 Inactive Member24 Jan 2018 5:22 a.m. PST

Barry

I can't say much about ranges. My opinion is that ranges, at skirmish level, should be mostly irrelevant, maybe with the exception of handguns, pistols, flamethrowers, hand grenades and shotguns. Everything else should be "you can see, you can shot", with two ranges: anything below 30" is effective range, everything above is long range and penalties are applied. Guns should always be considered in effective range, at this scale.

I like the idea of machineguns being used in fixed lines. That makes more relevant the use of LMGs by fireteams.

By the way, I've tried BA but it is not my cup of tea.

Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP24 Jan 2018 6:54 a.m. PST

It's been a while but I don't remember an opportunity fire rule in Bolt Action? Without it, how does an MMG act as "area denial" unless someone is foolish enough to stop in the fire area?

Dynaman878924 Jan 2018 7:03 a.m. PST

> It's been a while but I don't remember an opportunity fire rule in Bolt Action?

The ambush command is in reality Opp Fire.

Pizzagrenadier24 Jan 2018 7:41 a.m. PST

One of the things I enjoyed working into DH II was how HMGs worked as area denial weapons.

In DH II, HMGs may be used off board and rather than just having a higher ROF or something like that, they use a rule where the player places a marker to represent the beaten zone. When the HMG activates, it can fire at any target within 6" of the beaten zone, and the beaten zone can be traversed. Traversing can move the beaten zone up to 9". but it will take away from the points it has to shoot that activation (recreating that aspect of losing some ROF while traversing the gun). HMGs can also connect the established beaten zone to a cone of fire (marked at the edge of the table) which connects the two points and allows the HMG to shoot at any target that crosses that line or is close to it.

In game terms, this establishes HMGs as true area denial weapons in what is a really simple mechanic. It takes new players a little time to get used to the abstraction of a direct weapon firing from off board, but it works. The player that sets up his offboard HMG with his beaten zone at one end of a road and the cone of fire marker at the other really does control that road, or punishes any unit that moves across it.

I'm in the process of working on a series of videos for DH II that explain the rules and all of these different concepts built into the mechanics. I'm trying to get the first video out by the end of February.

archdukek24 Jan 2018 9:47 a.m. PST

To go back to the original post, the ranges in BA do not make sense for what is intended to be a platoon level WW2 game. However, they make more sense when you realise that the rules are written to encourage players to buy and use the various plastic kits produced by their publisher Warlord much of which wouldn't actually appear on the table in a platoon level game.

Having an area fire rule for off board HMGs makes sense for some scenarios. The Chain of Command Espana, the SCW variant, has such a rule using the overwatch marker on the table edge to define the area in which the off table HMG can operate. This sounds similar in effect to the approach taken in DH II.

Windward24 Jan 2018 10:06 a.m. PST

I'll put in my two cents for CoC. Truly a fun game, the patrol phase is innovative way set up a scenario.

Dice luck is there, a game can come off the rails with some extreme dice rolls, but that is the exception not the rule.

I didn't find it a difficult set to comprehend, nor to teach. It really does well as a multiplayer game, decided how to break up your command dice is part of the fun. Never forget the evil lure of the triple 6s…

4th Cuirassier24 Jan 2018 2:09 p.m. PST

How innovative is it though? ISTR something like it in WRG rules 40 years ago. If one side "out-scouted" the other, they got set-up advantages, etc.

TacticalPainter0124 Jan 2018 2:39 p.m. PST

The Patrol phase allows a more nuanced set up and deployment. Units don't arrive from their pre-ordained board edge, in fact you only have a general idea of where the enemy "may" be located, both attacker and defender.

So what's so great about that?

It introduces a high degree of fog of war with absolutely no need for any record keeping.

It rewards reconnaissance and punishes brashness and carelessness, encouraging historical tactics.

It provides the mechanics for ambushes and surprise attacks in a very plausible way, again without the need for record keeping and removing the "all seeing eye" of the gamer from the equation. Ambushes are a genuine surprise, that said, if your patrolling has indicated enemy activity in an area you shouldn't be totally surprised if some suddenly emerge and surprise you. Like your historical counterpart it pays to be prepared.

No two Patrol phases will be quite the same giving great replay value to scenarios.

It bring forces into contact quicker and with much less predictability. Players don't have the luxury of watching the enemy advance from the table edge in full sight and plan accordingly. It reflects the empty battlefield, where opponents have a general idea of the enemy's location, but little accurate information on exactly what units are where.

Worth noting that no one really wins or loses the Patrol phase to any degree that really determines the outcome of the game. Each player assesses the table and terrain with an eye on the areas they think are most advantageous for a defence or the launching of an assault. From time to time that won't be optimum, but that extra bit of friction adds to the game rather than detracts.

While friction is a key part of CoC, it is not random and the game mechanics provide the tools and the rewards for players who maximise the effectiveness of their leaders and historical tactics.

A player who is surprised when an enemy unit deploys to a jump off point and apparently pops up out of nowhere and fires on them, when it comes from an area where the Patrol phase has told you enemy activity has been detected, is really just being punished for his rashness.

While it has an element of abstraction to make it work with simple game mechanics, it undoubtedly provides the right period feel for a WWII battlefield.

Pizzagrenadier24 Jan 2018 3:27 p.m. PST

The Patrol Phase is really interesting and is a very clever mechanic. Though ultimately, you still end up with all of the units on the table once it is all said and done. The disposition of forces will add a fog of war element, but with everything on the table, it leaves little surprise for an attacker where the enemy is now located.

DHII does fog of war in a way that takes the concept much further. Both sides before a game will choose five locations on their side of the board (at a location and depth into the table decided by the scenario). For the defender, these are positions where the player will want to defend from, usually being good positions with cover and a good field of fire that covers enemy approaches. For the attacker, this will be the avenues of approach that he will want to use to attack enemy positions. Ideally they will be covered approaches and positions from which to fire on enemy positions and cover the approach of their own troops.

By itself, this doesn't differ from most other rule sets. However, rather than just plunking down everyone's units, the defender will leave all of his units off the table. The attacker will only deploy his units on the table as they come on from their chosen deployment points. This means that the attacker reveals his units as they expose themselves to the enemy. On the other hand, the defender does not reveal his units unless they fire or move.

So rather than just a clever way of setting up forces, this creates an actual fog of war. The attacker must commit himself to an attack using only the terrain in front of him and anticipating an enemy defense based on what positions the enemy might be using. Like real WWII platoon commanders, both attacker and defender are forced to make decisions with little or no knowledge of where the enemy is and based on the terrain in front of them. Various special scenario rules allow for some pre game recce and supporting fire onto suspected enemy positions but because of the way the system sets up a game, the battle will develop only as contact is made and both players adapt to the situation and the actions of the enemy.

In playtesting and games I've run, the tension is palpable as the attacker pushes his units into the unknown and the defender anxiously decides how long to hold his fire and reveal a position.

With the scenario requiring an attacker to capture an enemy position within the first turn, the pressure is on for both sides to actually carry out a plan.

I found it creates a very tense and realistic tactical situation for players.

Wolfhag24 Jan 2018 4:51 p.m. PST

Pizzagrenadier,
I like that.

I use a similar method for hidden defenders. It works pretty well-using recon units that can detect hidden units if they get close enough. The defenders need to hold their fire without the recon detecting them. The defender will try to put at guns on the reverse side of trees or buildings for a rear shot.

I'll give the attackers a limited number of recon by fire shots or players will spend the entire game shooting at nothing.

For meeting engagements the players show me the movement paths they'll take from their end of the table and then we'll work movement until LOS is obtained and the game really starts.

Wolfhag

Pizzagrenadier24 Jan 2018 4:56 p.m. PST

Wolfhag: I like that for AT guns. Encourages some historical use. I also like that meeting engagement movement. That's a neat solution.

I like to use a pre game recon rule where the attacker can commit a unit or two for recon before the game but it entails the risk of losing some men to enemy fire.

Hidden deployment like this also allows for pre game barrages of mortars etc where the player shooting rolls to hit chosen enemy locations (But without knowing if the enemy is in those locations) but the defender rolls the results (if any). In that case you have to trust your opponent and have them roll for effect in a different room or something so as not to give up any info. Creates that "the barrage landed and we went in right after" kind of effect.

archdukek24 Jan 2018 6:23 p.m. PST

Actually in Chain of Command, you don't place units on the table at the end of the Patrol Phase. They only appear on the table within a certain distance of the Jump Off Points as the game develops and the attacker starts to reveal his hand and the defender is forced to respond. A wise defender keeps his men off table as long as possible, while an attacker can use scouts and other recon to flush out the enemy position.

The effect is largely the same as you describe for DHII.

Pizzagrenadier24 Jan 2018 6:41 p.m. PST

Cool. All the times I've played it, we ended up with units on the table very quickly. Everyone knew where each other's units were pretty much right away.

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