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"Critique my Morale System" Topic

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Gauntlet14 Aug 2020 6:34 a.m. PST

My company level ww2 game is coming along nicely but I need a simple morale system to prevent the game from dragging and to prevent players from performing suicidal actions.

It needs to be very streamlined, my games only take 1-2 hours max and I'd like to keep it that way. So no morale checks before each action type thing.

My idea was to have a poor morale "currency" that you get whenever you wipe out an enemy unit. You can spend it at will to make the enemy roll a morale check before an assault, a morale check for a badly hurt squad, or to make crew bail a damaged vehicle etc.

Since capturing an enemy squad would get you another morale currency, the battle could easily snowball if the enemy lets you chop up a lot of his troops. This mechanic would also encourage players to retire transport vehicles and mauled squads since using them is not worth the risk of losing them.

Obviously troop quality would affect the morale checks.

I want morale checks to be something that only happens when it's significant (to speed up the game) but the constant threat of it Corrects suicidal playstyles.


USAFpilot Supporting Member of TMP14 Aug 2020 6:42 a.m. PST

Sometimes ideas look good on paper but don't actually play well. My only advice is to play test, play test, and play test some more. After a few dozen games you'll know if your ideas work,

Frederick Supporting Member of TMP14 Aug 2020 7:10 a.m. PST

Sounds interesting – I think that idea of play testing is a good one; I did some playtesting a while ago for a buddy's rule set that looked good on paper but needed major tweaks to make it playable

BillyNM14 Aug 2020 8:26 a.m. PST

It has elements of Piquet where you have to give up one of your morale chits to make your opponent take a morale test – you also lose these as a result of casualties, routs, etc. When you have none left you can't exploit a good (for you) situation by making the opponent test morale. Similarly, morale being tied to loss of units and leaders has similarities to Chain of Command (a platoon-level WW2 ruleset).

Personal logo Dye4minis Supporting Member of TMP14 Aug 2020 8:37 a.m. PST

Here is an idea: Not knowing the level of play (each man is a man/squad, platoon, etc.), and since each person is different than the next, roll up/assign a number that must be rolled by the next higher leader to get them to fulfill the order. If rolled over, attempt fails (didn't hear the command/ message received was garbled/chose to ignore/else). If roll is equal or under, command will be obeyed.

Allow the leader a limited number of attempts per turn. (Platoon having 4 squads= allow for 3 attempts per turn. The turn is only so long….) That leader could spend 1, 2, 3 or all for (or none) in getting a subordinate to act as desired. If unsuccessful, subordinate continues with last order given or does nothing, as appropriate.

Just an idea- morale does not enter into the equation. Only need to know if the subordiante (unit) acts according to orders….or not.


robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP14 Aug 2020 9:37 a.m. PST

To me, the morale currency introduces a gaming mechanic in place of tactics, but I'm like that. I'd sort into what affects morale, and what tests morale. Training, equipment and troop type--all pre-battle--affect morale. So--during the game--do casualties, hard cover and being low on ammunition. Testing morale would be close assaults, possibly friendly units running past, and intense fire--especially from unexpected directions. So set a morale level. Reduce it as pieces of the unit are removed, or for "low ammo" results, and increase it for being in hard cover. Test morale only when there are X many fire dice in a phase, friendly units run past (We didn't get the word!) or the unit is close assaulted. Test twice if either attack is from the rear. Depending on game length, you may or may not want to have a "rally" mechanism.

But many, many people get enjoyment out of book keeping which I do not.

Thresher0114 Aug 2020 9:52 a.m. PST

It depends upon a lot of factors, e.g. morale for the troops in the open, OR, crews in armored vehicles, and whether the latter are buttoned up, or not.

On offense or defense, under fire, have taken casualties, etc., etc..

For dangerous actions, e.g. advancing in the open vs. enemy fire, I think the unit should have to roll 1/2 or lower than their morale rating, rounded down, in order to proceed. For example, let's say we're using 1D10 for checking morale ratings, and a veteran unit is rated at an 8 (elites = 9, seasoned/experienced = 7), then that unit would need to roll a 4 or less before advancing in the open to attack the enemy by marching across an open field. Perhaps they get some modifiers if the enemy is surpressed, they have decent artillery support, or there is friendly smoke to help cover the advance (need to ponder that a bit). A seasoned/experienced unit would need to roll a 3 to do so.

Perhaps a higher level commander can increase this a bit, depending upon his "leadership bonus", in order to motivate them to attack – e.g. follow orders or you'll be court-martialed, or, I'll shoot you myself if you don't follow orders, etc., etc..

Not sure how to handle tanks, since they may not know what they're up against in terms of other tanks, or A/T guns, as well as other defenses. Perhaps just keep their ratings full, when on the attack.

Similarly for tanks and other armored vehicles, they may or may not know about friendly losses if buttoned up, until well into the action, or after it, due to the heated nature of combat, so the morale system for them might need to be slightly different, or delayed. They're too busy fighting to worry about what's happening to their other platoon, or company mates. I need to ponder that as well, but losses once they are aware of them, should affect their morale too.

Wolfhag14 Aug 2020 10:09 a.m. PST

I think we are both going in the same direction.

I've interpreted morale differently.

A unit's ability to attack is determined by its ability to advance under fire. I call it Aggressiveness. The idea comes from "GI Commander 1939-1945". Their Aggressiveness Level is dynamic and can change during the game.

To advance under small arms or artillery fire an Aggressiveness Check is made. If successful (leaders help) they can advance. If they fail their Aggressiveness (or morale if you like) goes down one level and they must "hit the deck" to take cover or fall back out of the enemy fire and LOS.

When first coming under fire a player can perform an Immediate Action Drill to hit the deck and return fire, fall back out of the enemy LOS or advance under fire. Think of failing an Aggressiveness Check as being pinned down if you can't advance you are pinned down.

I don't use Rally rules in the traditional manner. To rally and recover your lost Aggressiveness Level you must Pull Back (that order is automatically obeyed) out of the LOS of the enemy and their fire. Once safe from enemy fire, they recover their Aggressiveness or morale you may call it.

Since enemy fire is a negative modifier to an Aggressiveness Check you need to apply suppressive fire in order to advance. This forces players to use realistic Fire & Maneuver tactics. Once a unit is locked in a firefight its Situational Awareness is reduced and it is easier to maneuver on their flank. It's also harder to engage a new threat that comes into their LOS.

My units are team/sections of 4-6 figures. A player can decide to have only 1-2 figures advance as they get a positive Aggressiveness modifier because it is harder for the enemy to detect and it reflects the small infantry assault tactics used in WWII to get a combat engineer unit with a demo charge or flamethrower into range.

A player can have two teams/sections laying down suppressive fire and the assault/maneuver element Hunkered Down and out of the enemy LOS, they do not shoot so they do not attract attention. When the enemy fire is suppressed enough the assault/maneuver element moves out. Since they are not under enemy fire they do not have to perform an Aggressiveness check. This forces players to use the correct historical tactics to be successful.

Squad and Platoon leaders can add their positive modifier to Aggressiveness Checks but at a chance of becoming WIA/KIA. I'm considering a rule that would allow a unit in a hopeless situation to take a Morale Check and if they fail they surrender. If they pass they make a desperate attack to break contact (go berserk?).

A unit that fails multiple Aggressiveness Checks, takes multiple causalities, has poor leadership and no good fall back positions will eventually be eliminated or its Aggressiveness Level will be so low they'll refuse to attack (fail Aggressiveness Checks) but will defend.

There is lots of room to tweak a rule like this depending on what you want to model and what you feel is important. What I like is that the small arms rules reflect units that do not have firepower superiority are forced to fall back to recover, rather than relying on a mostly attrition model as units rarely took 100% causalities. Also, units not under fire by the enemy have more freedom of maneuver to advance.

We've been able to duplicate a squad performing a Fire & Maneuver with two teams/sections laying down suppressive fire and one section advancing and alternating them to get into a final assault position or force the enemy to fall back. That was the goal of the system.

In playtesting, we found the defending player normally had his defenders fall back before a final assault, especially if the attacker had a 3:1 or greater firepower superiority.

The only drawback is you need to track each unit's Aggressiveness Level.


emckinney14 Aug 2020 11:12 a.m. PST

The best information I know of is studies by Japan army psychologists. They found that troops under fire would continue to advancee until a certain (small) percentage were hot, then the unit would go to ground. Their important finding was that the percentage was independent of any measure of "morale!"

Gauntlet14 Aug 2020 3:00 p.m. PST

emckinnney, surely you mean shot right?

I imagine a lot of them would be sweating in the jungles of Burma.

Wolfhag14 Aug 2020 3:14 p.m. PST

I'm on board with that too. When we would go on patrols the patrol leader would designate certain locations as a "Rally Point" for us to fall back to in the event we needed to "di di mau". It was normally a spot that offered cover or a small depression that once we got there we'd immediately assume a hasty ambush surprise for our pursuers.

The Ballistic Research Lab did a study that said the individual shows good recoverability once out of the stressful situation. Of course, the effects of a lengthy and intense artillery bombardment the individual may need to take a few days in the rear to recover.

Most defenses had pre-prepared fallback positions to draw the enemy in and then counter-attack him. If you could, you'd have your light mortars zeroed in on your position so when you vacate it and the enemy takes it he gets a nice reception.


greghallam14 Aug 2020 3:59 p.m. PST

Gauntlet, what you're trying to achieve sounds a little like what is done in the Saga wargame rules. In Saga your unit acquires Fatigue points if it is pushed too hard, or a nearby friendly unit is wiped out. These points remain on the unit and can be used by your opponent to:

-Slow your unit's movement.
-Make your unit easier to hit in melee.
-Make the unit your unit is fighting in melee harder to hit.
-Make the unit your unit is shooting at harder to hit.

There's a good description of how it works in this review link

So the concept is similar if you are too gung-ho with a squad, you are giving points to your opponent to use against you. The main difference is that the points sit on the squad, rather than going into a pool.

Gauntlet14 Aug 2020 5:49 p.m. PST


Yeah I agree that it is similar. I want to keep it in a battle-wide pool to keep the game smooth but also so that a player can't just write off a unit and send it to its death if he no longer has use for it.

In my last game, my opponent sent two unloaded halftracks directly up to my line of infantry in cover to attack at point blank. My infantry made short work of them but it just felt silly since no sane commander would give that order.

Andy ONeill15 Aug 2020 11:20 a.m. PST

In real world there are a number of morale (check) triggers.

Seeing friendlies routing is one of the worst.
Attacked by unseen enemy is another.
Coming under fire – suppression is most likely outcome.
Losses are the obvious one and the rate of loss is important.

In terms of gamey mechanisms.

If you want comparative success you could have a losses track. You inflict losses on the enemy and it moves in your favour.

This could be in addition to individual unit suppression and rout effects.

Zephyr115 Aug 2020 2:29 p.m. PST

An alternative (that I'm experimenting with) is to have the unit's Command element take the morale test. Depending on how well it does determines how many elements the Command element may activate (or must remove, if a really bad result(!)
So instead of rolling for every individual element in a unit, you just roll for one (you may still need to roll for not-in-command elements.) If the Command element is destroyed (an obvious tactic for the opponent), you use a 'phantom' CE for the morale tests.
Hope this at least gives you some ideas… ;-)

Decebalus17 Aug 2020 3:55 a.m. PST

@gauntlet. I think, your system can work and would be a nice alternative.

IMO it is not similar to SAGA. SaGA uses a silly fatigue system, were troops get fatigue markers and loose them (usually in combat!) for a negative effect.

Your system puts the enemy player in the situation to decide, what are the crucial moments to let you make checks. So usually you will not check automaticly but at the danger moments. Sounds right!

Additional ideas: I am always for an integration of rules in the complete game system. Some ideas:
- Give every player some (1-3?) morale chits at the start, so the threat is there from the beginning.
- Holding an objective can give you morale chits.
- You could integrate the morale chits with the winning condition. Lets say the winner is the player who holds 10 chits. A good used chit will usually be such a loss to the opponent, that you get 2 or 3 chits in return. But a bad played chit will loose you this one chit. Do you risk it?

Gauntlet17 Aug 2020 1:18 p.m. PST


I like the way you are thinking about this! My only concern is that if they are a victory condition..they might be spent too rarely. For example, if I overrun the enemy position I want it to make sense to force broken squads to surrender to clean them up. But if I can easily spend a turn shooting them I wouldn't waste my victory point making the check.

Personal logo javelin98 Supporting Member of TMP18 Aug 2020 12:26 p.m. PST

I wouldn't be in favor of a battle-wide morale currency. If your units on the left flank are kicking butt and taking names, why should they have to suffer because a squad on the right flank just ran into a meat grinder and are being routed?

I was playing around with an idea years ago when I was sketching up a rule set. Kind of like in Epic 40K, units would get a shock marker (or chit, or small red token, or whatever) when they suffered an adverse event, such as taking fire, taking casualties, failing in an assault, etc. At the beginning of the next turn, each unit rolls a d6 for each shock marker against them; the unit's behavior is then determined by the results:

+ Rolling a single 1 means the unit goes to ground and can only defend for this turn.
+ Two 1's means the unit immediately retreats its max movement and takes no other action this turn.
+ Three 1's means the unit takes a casualty
+ Four 1's means the unit is routed and out of the game.

Before making the roll, the player would subtract shock markers depending on certain conditions, such as:
- 1 marker for a Medic assigned to an Infantry unit
- 1 marker for a Mechanic assigned to an Armor/Mechanized unit
- 1 marker for a Hero/Leader/Commissar type within X inches
- 1 marker for taking no action other than a Rally action this turn
- 1 marker for being Dug In (Infantry) or Buttoned up (Armor/Mech)
- Etc.

Some weapons, like flamethrowers or chemical weapons, would inflict an additional shock marker over and above any inflicted by causing casualties or firing on a unit.

Anyhoo, that's what I was toying with in the dim and distant past. The downside is some people don't like having markers or chits on the board. The upside is that it is more directly relevant to what each unit is experiencing, it prevents the kind of suicidal charge that the OP dislikes, and there is no record keeping.

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