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"Treadheads gunnery system" Topic

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©1994-2020 Bill Armintrout
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Wolfhag17 May 2020 10:02 p.m. PST

One of the goals of the Treadheads game system was to design a detailed and playable 1:1 tank-tank engagement game. We wanted a new player to be able to perform the same tasks in the same sequence as a real tank crew even if he has never played a war game or knows nothing about tank-tank engagements. Ideally, the system should enable the game to get historically accurate results with a minimum of abstractions.

So how do we go about doing it? Since each action in a tank-tank engagement takes a certain amount of time to perform, by defining the actions and giving them a timing value-based as closely as possible to their historic values we should be able to accomplish that goal.

By using a customized data card for each vehicle the actions and timing values are represented and the player adds or subtracts 3-5 of them just like he would with die roll modifiers. Using a game clock (manually advanced second-to-second) and the OODA Decision Loop as a way to parse the timing on a second-to-second basis. Then all units Act/execute their order after the amount of time the player determined. They then loop back to the start of their loop to determine how long it will take to perform their next action.

Here is an example of engaging a new target with a Ranging shot:
Fire commands by the Commander taken from FM 17-12 Tank gunnery (Sherman). The timing values for each action are for the German Panther A:
FM 17-12 Tank gunnery (Sherman) download link: PDF link


Driver Halt
(driver halts and can turns/pivot)
Decel Time is about 4-5 seconds and can be turning to face the target while halting, pivot time is 10 degrees per second

(crewman warning order)

(defines target type)

(ordering AP ammo to load or AP round may already be loaded)
Load time is 8 seconds if the chamber is empty

Traverse Left
(gunner uses powered turret traverse)
Traverse speed is 10 or 15 degrees per second. The Panther turret traverse speed was based on the engine RPM. Higher RPM = 15 degrees per second.

Steady …..on
(gunner switches from powered traverse to manual traverse to acquire the target in the gunsight as the target comes into his field of view.)

Acquisition time is somewhat variable taking D6+2 seconds. A good gunsight and a panoramic periscope sight makes it quicker and easier. Poor lighting and obscured targets from smoke and haze will take longer.

Five Hundred
(estimated target range)

Gunner Aim Time to make final elevation adjustments based on range estimation from the Commander. Better crews perform more quickly.

Fire (command for the gunner to shoot)

This would be "Act" in the loop. The player loops back to Observe in his loop to decide to fire or move and the amount of time it will take.

Here is how the player would carry this out and determine how long it will take (Action Timing) in a game. He determines the timing for each action:

This is the part of the Panther data card to determine the Action Timing for a Ranging shot. To use it start from the left and work your way right to add or subtract the amount of time to perform the actions to get the shot off.

Halt Order/Decel/Pivot: 5 seconds. Not used if the tank is already halted.

Load round if not already in the chamber: 8 seconds

Traverse Time: variable, minimum time of 1-2 seconds if the driver halted facing the target or 0 seconds if Bore Sighted. For example, we'll us 2 seconds

Gunner Acquisition Time: Variable D6+2 seconds so let's go with 6 seconds.

Poor Light: Battlefield visual conditions were rarely perfect. This represents gunners had a harder time acquiring a target and aiming in poor light, haze, and snow. Also against a semi-concealed target. In the game it is set by the scenario or by sighting through partial smoke.

Aim Time: Ace crews are quicker, poor crews slower. The "RF" is for using a rangefinder which takes 12 seconds longer.

Snap Shot: If the range is <= 900m (one-second time of flight) the player can deduct 1-4 seconds of time with an increasing accuracy penalty. This simulates Battlesight aiming. Less aim time means a less accurate shot.

So in this example a Halt/Pivot Time of 5 seconds + Traverse of 2 seconds + Gunner Acquisition 6 seconds + Veteran Aim time 6 seconds = 19 seconds if the right round is already chambered.

The Snap Shot modifier (Battlesight aiming) allows the player to subtract up to 4 seconds if within 900m (Battlesight range one second time of flight for the Panther gun) but with an increasing accuracy penalty for each second less.

As you can see there are several player options and variables that generate a Fog of War making it difficult for your opponent to predict when you'll shoot.

OODA Loop Timing: If the engagement started with the game clock showing 10:07 and it takes 12 seconds to shoot he shoots when the game clock is advanced to 10:19. During the 12 seconds any number of other units could have executed their order from a previous turn, including knocking out our example tank. The crew is assumed to be performing their duties and there is nothing else for the player to do. This enables a player to run up to a dozen vehicles or more. However, before 10:19 he can react to a new and more dangerous threat by canceling his current order and issuing a new one.

Historically, there are a number of variations of this and the player can simulate all of them. At ranges over one second time of flight, crews used "Precision Aim" fire control and a rangefinder if they had one. The tank commander and gunner would take time to carefully estimate the range (Ranging shot). The tank commander would observe the tracer (called sensing) and direct the gunner to make an elevation adjustment based on the round being high or low (Bracketing shot). This would continue until a hit is achieved, normally taking 2-3 shots under two-seconds time of flight or 3-4 shots at ranges over two seconds time of flight. This was the most accurate way to engage a target but took the longest.

Higher velocity guns had a clear advantage. A Sherman 75mm would have a one-second time of flight out to 725m. A Panther 75L70 gun 900m and a German 88L70 gun out to 1000m. The higher velocity afforded the crew to trade decreased accuracy for increased speed and still have a high chance to hit on the first shot.

The other historic fire control type was Battlesight and Burst on Target. The advantage over Precision Aim was that the first and second shots would be quicker but with a loss of accuracy. That's the "Risk-Reward Tactical Decision" the player makes, just as the real crew did. Die rolls or random actions have nothing to do with it. For Burst on Target, the gunner would go into battle with the elevation set for the expected engagement range out to one second time of flight.

When taking the first shot rather than the gunner and commander taking time to carefully estimate the range the gunner takes control and does it himself. With the gun elevation set at 700m, the Gunner would do a quick estimation of the range. If it was less than 700m he'd aim towards the bottom of the target because the round trajectory would be rising above the crosshairs and hit the target. If it was at about 700m he's aiming center mass. At 800m-900m he's aiming at the top of the target.

At that range the round would be dropping under the crosshairs set for 700m and hit the target. If the round missed low he'd aim a little higher the same distance it was low. This is called "Burst on Target" because the gunner is moving the "burst" of the missed round onto the target. Think of it like Kentucky Windage. It's quicker because the tank commander does not need to get involved as long as the Gunner can observe the shot which is why it's hard to do at longer ranges. That's another advantage to high-velocity guns. At ranges over 800m they'd have to use Precision Aim and range estimation.

It would go something like this:

In the game, a Ranging shot is 4 seconds quicker using the Snap Shot (Battlesight) technique than Precision Aim. For Bracketing follow up shots using Burst on Target (Rapid Fire) is 2 seconds sooner giving a 6-second advantage. This advantage translates into the ability to engage more targets in the same amount of time. Again, these are all player decisions and he can effectively perform them as they were historical without really knowing what they are. He just follows the sequence on the data card and is no more difficult than adding a few die roll modifiers, evaluates his options, and makes his decision and hopes for the best. His opponent is doing the same thing.

Tracking the target: When the time comes to shoot you can hold fire and track the target. Why would you want to so that you may ask? Well, there are several reasons. If you are concealed and not detected, you can wait until the target comes closer, halts or turns for a flank shot. You could also wait for the target to get near a Range Marker which will increase your chances of a first-round hit. It's the best way to trigger an ambush.

So far this system has proven easy for new players and detailed enough for the experienced player. In some ways it is easier because the OODA Loop timing eliminates the need for unit activations, initiative determination, opportunity fire rules and special rules for parsing IGYG turns. We'll be looking for playtesting teams next month.


Schogun18 May 2020 5:37 a.m. PST

I've been following your game with great interest for quite a while now. I would submit my name as a playtester but getting other players together to game will be a challenge yet.

Keep us posted!

Major Mike18 May 2020 7:56 a.m. PST

Novel approach, I wish to know more.

donlowry18 May 2020 8:25 a.m. PST

It would really be nice if a computer program could do all that math for you, and keep the game from bogging down.

emckinney18 May 2020 9:48 a.m. PST

The system seems completely insane, but it plays incredibly smoothly. Surprisingly, the math doesn't bog things down.

Legion 418 May 2020 2:15 p.m. PST

Wow ! Just amazing ! thumbs up

Wolfhag19 May 2020 8:09 a.m. PST

Don, it's 2nd-grade math, mostly rolling a D6 and adding 1-3 modifiers. Using a calculator would slow down the game.

emckinney, yes, many first impressions are that's crazy, it makes my head hurt, that's too complicated, you can't play a game like that, that's like Tractics, etc. I have had many other nice compliments from experienced players, tank crewman, former military, game designers, and publishers.

In fact, it is the experienced older players that have a difficult time adapting because they have a hard time wrapping their head around the timing aspect of actions within their OODA Decision Loop. They can't get out of the unit activation and IGYG concept. Sooner or later they'll realize the game is much simpler than they thought and they were complicating it by overthinking. Younger players and ones with no previous traditional wargaming experience catch on quickly because they see the simplicity and the game flows like a stop-action video game that they are all familiar with.

Older experienced players sometimes end up waiting to be told when to shoot or move or thinking they can't do anything until a unit is activated. With the OODA Loop as soon as you Act you immediately, in the same turn, loop back to Observe and do it over again. That's what I call "Playing the Loop".

In most traditional games when you activate or it is your turn to shoot you just pick your target and roll the dice with few restrictions. In a Time Competitive game with all units active and executing their orders at different times (unknown to their opponent) within their Decision Loop you need to use your judgment to anticipate the enemy actions and timing on the battlefield. The "Risk-Reward Tactical Decisions" are more than just a die roll modifier. I've observed that some players are too lazy to think, they just want to be told when to roll the dice and blow things up. This game is not for them.

Another factor that can be intimidating is the use of military nomenclature and terminology that have been translated from the manuals to the game. You've seen a few examples. However, former military players catch on right away. I've gotten around that by giving a player the ability to choose between speed and accuracy, a concept easy to understand. In reality, he's performing Battlesight and Burst on Target or Precision Aim, in the same manner a real crew would. He just does not realize it.

The game also gives players the flexibility to execute variations of static and moving fire or maneuvering. For example, he could acquire a target while moving, halt, take 3-4 seconds to aim and fire, and then "Shoot & Scoot" to move off, reload, and do it again. You can start behind a slope turret down, acquire a target, move to a hull-down position for a few seconds, shoot, and then "Scoot" in reverse back to turret down reload and do it all over again. There is very little time for an opponent to react and shoot. However, it won't work as well if your enemy has your hull down pop up location bore-sighted. That's why you need to relocate after firing.

Legion, it's nothing amazing, it's what we were trained on.

Here is a download link for a three page PDF that explains the game concepts, how the game flows and what is expected of players. My contact info is on the last page. If you understand the concepts and game flow the next step would be to watch a video of how to use the customized data cards.
Link: link

The playtest kits will be ready next month. I'm looking for experienced players, former military, and teenagers that have never played a war game before. I've played it with my grandkids. We've mostly played 1:1 games with micro-armor to 15mm. Larger scales will work but you'll need a correspondingly larger playing surface.

We will eventually have a complete combined arms game with air, artillery, and infantry that will use the same concepts and be faithful to the manuals and training.

If you want further reading on the OODA Loop and infantry download this PDF: link


Legion 419 May 2020 8:12 a.m. PST

Legion, it's nothing amazing, it's what we were trained on.
thumbs up Very true but to put all that detail into a wargame is what I meant !

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