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"Treadheads AAR and rules summary" Topic

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410 hits since 11 Feb 2018
©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
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Wolfhag11 Feb 2018 3:11 p.m. PST

Over the weekend there was a playtest of Treadheads tank and infantry game system at Camp Pendleton, CA. Sorry, but there were no pictures taken. We use a pretty sparse setup and pre-painted 1/144 scale models. We want the players to give us feedback on the strategy and game mechanics and not the feel of the eye candy. Vehicles are 1:1 and infantry are on team stands. We've played from micro armor to 28mm. I'll give an overview of the rules first and then a narrative of the action.

Game rules summary: Treadheads uses one second turns as a timing mechanism for future events to reflect the interaction between all units on the table. This replaces a structured IGOUGO, initiative determination and activation systems used in traditional games. It also eliminates the need for special opportunity fire and over watch rules because movement and firing are synchronized to the same turn. The one second turns allows historic values for rates of fire, turret rotation and movement with a minimum of abstraction but still playable. All units on the table are synced to the same turn. All units are "active" and an attempt to respond to enemy activity like shooting, moving and turret rotation on the turn they occur, no waiting.

Each data card is customized for that particular vehicle model eliminating the need for most modifiers and calculations. This includes a customized engagement value, hit location and armor values with vertical and lateral compound angles figured. The gunnery charts compare favorably to historic results.

During each turn there may be one or more guns shooting or none at all. If there is no action scheduled for a turn the game moves immediately to the next turn. That's important to understand as this is very different to a "turn" in normal games. In a way it is similar to a video game that uses frame rates to as a timing mechanism to measure the action. Every 5th turn models are simultaneously physically moved and every 10th turn is an admin turn for other activities like radio communication, small arms fire, etc. Artillery and mortars can land during any turn giving a good simulation of vehicles moving through a barrage.

Engaging a target is a three-step process:
Step 1 is a spotting and reaction which is a mutual Situational Awareness Check rolling a single D20. This determines how quickly the threat can be identified and engaged. Being buttoned up or engaged in your flank or rear can mean an Engagement Delay of 1-10 turns, This gives the first shot advantage to units with unbuttoned/unsuppressed crews with over watch in the right direction. Poor crews will take longer to perform the same actions as better crews. If you are in a poor tactical position you can start moving/evading and attempt to get out of the enemy LOS rather than shoot. You can also cancel a current order to engage a new and more dangerous threat.

Step 2 is getting the gun on the target. You can do this by maneuvering or rotating the turret. There is a play aid to help determine how many turns it will take. Faster turret rotations have an advantage in getting off the first shot.

Step 3 is determining the amount of aim time for a Ranging shot. The game uses Ranging, Bracketing and Ranged In fire control that effects the accuracy, tactics and amount of time to shoot. A gun needs to use the maximum amount of aim time for maximum accuracy. This can be from 4-8 turns depending on the vehicle, gun, and crew. Players can make a risk-reward decision on this step by choosing to shoot sooner but with decreased accuracy. This simulates the "Battle Sight" engagement tactic crews used in WWII. You can decrease your aim time up to three turns but with increasing accuracy penalties. This gives a first shot advantage to guns with a higher muzzle velocity that are more accurate at longer ranges. Rangefinders can also be used for Ranging shots.

Movement: Each moving vehicle uses a movement marker/arrow to show the speed and direction of movement. Using a scale of 1" = 25 meters a vehicle moving at 35kph will move about 50 meters every five turn movement segment or about 10m per turn. Every 5th turn the model is physically moved to the end of the arrow and the arrow flipped over to how the new direction of movement. The higher the speed the longer the arrow. This adds a visual movement dimension to the game and allows some prediction where a moving unit will be in X number of turns. The movement markers are divided into 5 segments showing exactly where a moving vehicle is during each of the 5 turns before being physically moved. This Is how movement and firing are synchronized without additional rules. This allows a vehicle's movement to be tracked on a turn by turn basis without the need to physically move it.

Fog of War: This is created by the opponents not knowing the exact turn their enemy will fire. Variables are created with the Situational Awareness Check (Engagement Delays), crew differences, turret rotation speeds and the shooters risk-reward decision using less aim time to shoot sooner with an accuracy penalty. Players can realistically estimate movement and firing of their opponents once they understand the relationship between of the timing of events. However, you cannot predict the exact turn they'll fire. This allows split second results without additional rules or die rolls. Players decisions are what makes the difference. To add to the Fog of War, each time a vehicle fires there is a 5%-10% chance of a SNAFU. This can result in jams, equipment failures and increased action times throwing off the players future timing of events. No actions are guaranteed to be pulled off when planned. What fun would that be?

Game Play: Game turns are called out one by one. As each game turn is called out all actions like shooting scheduled for that turn are performed. If there is no action for a particular turn the next game turn is immediately called out. Every 5th turn all units with a movement arrow are physically moved (simultaneous movement with restrictions). During each turn players attempt to position their units and use different tactics to beat their opponent to that all important first shot by using their strengths against their opponents weakness and tactics that can help overcome their weakness. This eliminates game mechanics to determine initiative or attempt to activate units. Crews will almost always carry out orders from the player but the exact turn can only be estimated and can be interrupted by a new threat of being destroyed before the action is carried out.

Now on to the games. Rather than a turn by turn and blow by blow, I'll give an overall narrative and highlights of the games.

They played two games of Russian four T-34/85's against two German Tigers and the second four T-34/85's against two German Stug IIIM. There were three players, one Russian and two German. The GM and Russian player had played the game on two previous occasions and read the rules. The other two German players were new but had played tank video games.

In the first game, the Russian player advanced his T-34/85 starting out at 1400 meters at high speed using terrain masking until he got to about 800m of the Tiger I's, the maximum range to inflict damage. While moving, he angled his tanks at 45 to 60 degrees to the German Tigers getting the maximum defensive benefit and increasing his armor. While moving he has the turret pointed at a Tiger and the gunner had acquired it (this is needed to perform Halt Fire). He could choose to jink/evade but cannot track a target to fire. While the T-34's closed the range the Tigers did get off 5 shots with only one hit. The round had partial penetration on the rear hull but the spalling failed to ignite the fuel for no damage. One of the Tigers had a SNAFU that resulted in the round being jammed. This took him out of the battle for 10 turns allowing the Russians to close the range.

Once the Russians were within 800m when the Tiger fired and missed, the Russian player would perform a Halt Fire. He'd stop, spend 5 more turns of aiming for maximum accuracy, fire, and then move out again. It took the Tiger 13 turns to reload, aim and fire again. The T-34/85 could Halt Fire about every 12 turns. The tactic enabled hit to stop and shoot and force the Tiger to shoot at a moving target. The Russian got a hit on a Tiger mantlet but the penetration from 800m of 115mm was not enough to get through the mantlet armor of 135mm. A few turns later that Tiger fired and hit the T-34 on the front hull. A penetration of 135mm got through the T-34 armor of 105mm. However, because of the angle, there was a potential for a ricochet but the Russian player failed the roll. Now three T-34's are left.

After a couple of misses, a T-34/85 got a hit on a Tiger driver plate armor at 700m and the penetration of 115mm penetrated the armor of 105mm. That was the one with the jammed shell. Scratch one Tiger. The remaining Tiger got off another shot at a moving T-34/85 but missed again. The single Tiger maneuvered away from the two T-34's on his left flank in the hopes of engaging the single T-34 on his right flank using some woods to mask his movement. This kept him out of LOS from all of the Russians. Because of his slower speed, this allowed the two T-34's on his left flank to close rapidly and not have to stop to shoot. As the lone T-34 come into view at only 300m the Tiger was waiting. The mutual Situational Awareness Check resulted in an Engagement Delay of 3 turns for the T-34 because of being buttoned up and no delay for the Tiger. That meant the T-34 had to keep moving for 3 additional turns before he could react (delays are dangerous and give the initiative to your opponent). The Tiger needs to spend 7 turns aiming for maximum accuracy. However, at such a short range he used the Battle Sight tactic and spent only 4 turns. After 3 turns the T-34 noticed the Tiger but did not have enough time to really react as the next turn the Tiger shot putting a round through the turret and igniting the ammo rack.

The Tiger began to turn around to face the two T-34's on his other flank. Halfway through his turn, the T-34's appeared. This time the mutual Situational Awareness Checks resulted in no delays. The Tiger, seeing two T-34's with their guns already facing his flank, decided to move out and evade. With a turret rotation of only 15 degrees/turn it would take him 5 turns just to get the gun on the target allowing the T-34's to shoot first. The two T-34's, seeing they have a tactical advantage flanking the Tiger, stopped to take 7 turns of aiming for maximum accuracy from 900m. They'll need all of the accuracy they can get against a moving target with an 80-degree deflection shot. The first T-34 missed. The second one hit and the Tiger's jink failed. The round hit the Tiger's upper hull side armor of 85mm and was easily pierced by a penetration of 110mm. This hit the ammo storage resulting in a fire. Game over.

This is a pretty long AAR so I'll leave the fight between the T-34's and StuG's for another day. Overall it was a good test of the game system. The T-34's were able to successfully close the range and still keep the Tigers under fire. They used their speed and maneuverability to negate the Tiger's long range advantage. By using the Halt Fire tactic the T-34's were able to gain an advantage. If the Tigers withheld their fire waiting for a T-34 to stop and fire the Russian player would have just kept maneuvering to flank him. To effectively counter this tactic the Germans would have needed to focus both Tigers on one T-34.

The Tigers could have used the Tracking tactic. When it is your turn to fire you can hold fire and continue to track the target. This allows you to wait until the range closes, he stops or presents a flank target. The advantage of Tracking is that it allows you to fire in any future turn with no delay and with maximum accuracy as you've already spent maximum aim time for it. (this is a good way to trigger an ambush too). So when one Tiger fired and missed, the second Tiger using Tracking fire, could fire on the turn the T-34 stops and shoot before he does. However, that would have left the rest of the T-34's unengaged.

The Russian player had two previous games with the T-34's and has successfully developed tactics to counter the German firepower superiority if he has them outnumbered and has some blocking terrain. He refused to make the same mistake as other players which were to engage in a long-range shootout. He knows how to use timing to maneuver his units out of LOS before the opponent can shoot or get out of their field of fire and get a flank shot on them.

The feedback from the two new players was the time & action concept was intuitive and they were able to plan their turns of firing after a few tries. They said they liked the strategy and options to gain an advantage, especially attempting to shoot first. So basically they were attempting to get inside their opponent's decision loop to gain the initiative. To that end they had to work with their weapons platform performance limitations, positioning for a tactical advantage and risk-reward decisions. Chance plays only a small part and there are very few special rules or exceptions to complicate the game. The game moves along without players waiting for their "turn" to activate. The crews are assumed to perform their duties unless a SNAFU occurs. Once a turn is established when to shoot the player does not need to perform any more activities and can cancel his order to respond to a new threat. Players need to pay attention at all times as new developments can take place rather quickly.

If anyone is interested I can post an image of the T-34/85 and Tiger I data cards to make some comparisons. I also have some videos.


mwindsorfw Supporting Member of TMP11 Feb 2018 3:34 p.m. PST


captaincold6911 Feb 2018 3:38 p.m. PST

Count me in as being interested. Love to see the data cards and any videos too!

Schogun Supporting Member of TMP11 Feb 2018 4:27 p.m. PST

Cards. Videos. Rules. Yes!

Wolfhag12 Feb 2018 11:29 a.m. PST

Here are the data cards for the Panther and T-34/85. Talk about information overload! This is the detailed version. I have an intro and basic version with less detail. I think you guys can handle this.

I'll be breaking down each section into a video, it's easier to explain. Any factors with a tan background are timing values.

In Step 1 they are Engagement Delays from the Situational Awareness checks. You can see the delay values get higher in the flank and rear areas.

Step 2 is the turret rotation time using historic values (yes, I know the Panther was variable).

Step 3 is the Fire Control type taken from the tank manuals. The values with a tan background are the aim times for maximum accuracy. Values with a red arrow pointing --> are accuracy penalties for decreasing your aim time. For Ranging this reflects Battlesight, Bracketing it reflects Burst on Target and Ranged In reflects Rapid Fire. This is a risk-reward decision for the player to help gain that extra second or two to get the shot off first.

The right side of the data card is for the hit location/armor/damage. Below that is the accuracy penalty for moving and firing.

There are no die roll modifiers for gunnery. The game use range penalties in 100m increments. Shooting at a target at 1000m with a penalty of 200--> means you use the accuracy of 1200m.


I'll have a video up soon to show the engagement process, delays, initiative and Situational Awareness. Once you understand the "Time & Action" concept it will all become more clear.

There is no traditional IGOUGO sequence, reaction is much different than most games too.

There is no initiative determination either. Performing an action first depends on your tactical deployment (like overwatch), flanking/surprise, crew exposure, crew training and weapons platform performance. Chance plays only a small part. It's all about timing.


Cement Head13 Feb 2018 7:01 a.m. PST

Will there be a dotage edition? :)

Wolfhag13 Feb 2018 1:58 p.m. PST

Cement Head,
I'm a senior citizen so dotage is already built into the design. I'm due for cataract surgery in a few months and I can still read the data cards.

Almost all of the playtesting was with new first time players using the data cards shown. Sometimes a first-time wargamer picks it up more quickly than a veteran gamer because he does not need to "unlearn" previous game mechanics.

Reading a Sherman, M-48 or M-60 tank manual (especially the gunnery and fire control) will prepare you for all of the terminologies you may not be used to. I used them as a basis for the game design.

In a day or two, I'll have a video of a narrated Powerpoint posted.


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