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"Designing a modern-era wargame with no prior knowledge" Topic

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bpmasher09 Jan 2022 8:51 a.m. PST

I have no knowledge of modern combat, and I only own one book on the subject (Outlaw Platoon) which I'm yet to read.

I am currently reading "Tabletop Wargames: Designers and writers handbook" by Priestley & Lambshead. It raises a lot of points I haven't thought about like the scale I'd want to use and weapons ranges vs movement values.

The type of game I previously had in mind was some kind of grand-tactical presentation of modern warfare, with a big warmat, possibly hexes and 6mm to 20mm dudes based in fire teams, squads or individually.

I've done a number of tweaks during the years for various RPGs, and playtested my own games by myself, looking for the right feel.

I enjoyed some Bastogne from the SCS system yesterday, and it gave me a push towards the hex movement system. There's something intuitive about set points your troops can occupy.
The game feels like it flows well and gives good details about the terrain and types of cover you can gain.

There's operational wargames on modern war that I will probably check out soon, to better understand the difference to WW2 combat for instance.

Any books on modern war I should know about, for starters?

Personal logo etotheipi Sponsoring Member of TMP09 Jan 2022 9:21 a.m. PST

Depends on what type of modern warfare?

Picking a date range (preferably a decade) and e venue (a few countries, or better, forces) or a handful of representative battles would help.

For example, warfare in Ethiopoa, Eritria, Somalia in the 40's, 70's, or last week are very different things. Likewise, national militaries or police, various Pan-African forces, terrorists, separatists, criminlas, or militias are also different.

Too broad a scope can result in rules that are very clinky and complicated (vice complex). An approach to this, the one we use for QILS is to have a core mechanism for the rules, then use a campaign framework (a different thing than the rules) to establish the chararcter of forces, and scenarios to define the specifics of objectives.

So, the rules provide a broad space of interaction, the campaign focuses that, and the scenarios provide the one or two relevant tweaks you need for that battle alone.

bpmasher09 Jan 2022 9:41 a.m. PST

A completely fictional force in semi-fictional Africa might ease the research burden a bit. Focusing on weapons systems and troop morale/training as the basis for the game.

Alternately, small special forces recon missions in modern hotspots (recent historical wars) would be another option.

doc mcb09 Jan 2022 10:39 a.m. PST

Why not just do the rules for near-future scifi? Then you can make it all up. If you don't know much about current reality (I surely do not, and I was an infantry officer -- but 50 years ago!) you will be subject to criticism by those who do. Set it 20 years in the future and do as you please.

bpmasher09 Jan 2022 11:08 a.m. PST

Makes sense.

pfmodel09 Jan 2022 8:30 p.m. PST

Selecting ground scale is critical, that will tell you the unit scale and the game-turn scale. You mention an elements scale of between platoon(or fire team), squad or individual men, which are very different scales. You could look at some of the existing rules available: These videos give you a list of the skirmish, squad and platoon scale rules, respectively;

Hexes are an option; I do not prefer hexes for a variety of reasons, the biggest it detracts from the playing area bling, but some players love hexes for game-system simplicity reasons. This video provides some info on HEX based figure gaming which may assist you in determine the optimal playing area direction. It also provides some guide for drawing hexes or the use of hex segments which can be joined together.

AS for knowledge about modern warfare, the lower the scale the less you need to know as the weapon systems types are reduced. At skirmish scale you normally do not need to worry about AWACS, or ELINT, or most air support. Even artillery support can be bypassed, although you will need some indirect fire rules. At a higher scale the range of weapons systems dramatically grow until you get to one element = 1 company scale, then it gets simpler again.

As for background on modern combat, that is a big subject. This video provides some info on the tempo of combat, based on US military manuals:

Most other book I can think of don't really give you what you are after as you are after military instruction guides for actual military personal, which tends to be a dry topic for most folks. James Dunnigan wrote a book called making War, from memory, which may be useful. There are a number of English translated German instruction manuals, such as Company Officers handbook of the German army which is available as a pdf download on the internet. It was created by US intelligence back in March 1944. The German Infantry handbook 1939-1945 by Alex Buchner is a more polished publication, also available as a pdf download. The US military also has FM 100-2-3, The Soviet Army, troop Organization and Equipment, which is filled with soviet tactics.

bpmasher10 Jan 2022 12:07 a.m. PST

These look like good resources, thanks much! I will get to watching the videos.

UshCha10 Jan 2022 1:51 a.m. PST

The best policy is to do lots researchwork. If you are doing an operational game then logistics is key. "Amatures concentrate on tactics, professionals on logistics". The Arteries of War by Joseph Sinclair may be a good start, It covers all periods but is a good primer. As the man says if reality is not your thing just do fanatasy. There are lots of modern Fantasy games (some claiming to be cold war but touch little on reality).

One serving soldier noted rhat above company level the concentration of higher command is increasingly on Logistics. You can only have a major offensive if all the folk have enough supplies to eneact it.

Jcfrog Supporting Member of TMP10 Jan 2022 12:38 p.m. PST

I can't really imagine how you can design a rule on something you know nothing about. Read books, read othe's rules, that is of those who look like they know what they talk about. Read internet.
Create somwthing from something, not from air.
Not to be nasty, but if later you get really into the subject you will regret the time wasted by doing things upside down.
This is a subject you can find nearly everything about, unlike Hittites for exemple, where, say 80% is conjectural.
It is even harder to do a simple thing from a complicated subject.
On many details you can even ask pros, hardly possible with Hittites, though I was sure I saw one shopping lately.

Wolfhag10 Jan 2022 2:37 p.m. PST

Why not try the US Army War Game Umpire Manual: PDF link


Zephyr110 Jan 2022 9:14 p.m. PST

Eat the elephant a bite at a time. ;-)
First, decide on the scale you want to play it at.
Then work out the movement.
Figure out each part as you go, and how to integrate it into the previous rules (and make a list of more stuff you want to add, as you become aware of it.)
Research, lots.
And most important of all:
Keep it simple. Simple to resolve, simple to remember. No need to write long, complicated rules (they need to be clearly written to understand what you want the rules to do. List any exceptions of what they can/can't do afterwards, don't include them in the same sentence as the main rule. oops, I just violated that rule… ;-)

bpmasher11 Jan 2022 5:24 a.m. PST

I will start by listening to military history on the subject. Get a feel for the period.

UshCha11 Jan 2022 9:37 a.m. PST

It is also critical you identify your target audience.
If the players are not keen students of the period interested in tactics then that game is different to one where the the players are interested in clear credible responses.

Even so simple an issue as ground scale is not always as simple as it appears. You need to understand if you are going for unrealistic terrain, typical of many "Cold war fantasy" games or a real world. Get some real maps of European terrain or at a push Google maps satellite pictures and note the scale. Look at the feature density and decide how you want to model that realistically. In a debate about ground scale in the past I noted that in the real world the number of hedges/streams/roads that there are, that represent a potential crossing issue for vehicles, in say a typical tank gun range, is far more than can be found on many war games boards. You need to understand if you are going to reduce the number of such features significantly, how this will impact the response of thew model? In the real world infantry use hedges, ditches and streams to hide in. If you simply eliminate them then machine guns become daft and realism is thrown out.

Similarly if you adopt the exponential range approach of "Fantasy Cold War" games then you have thrown out reality, (it gives too few hedges and ditches in tank range and it is impossible to map real world terrain onto the battlefield.

These are key issue you need to resolve first. To be fair no reading of technical manuals is worth it if you have already undermined the basic principals outlined above.

Blaubaer13 Jan 2022 5:32 a.m. PST


if you don't do any praktical wargames till now, maybee you can try some now. The "One Page Rules" are easy to understand, they are free to use and they give solutions and understanding to the basic problems of moving, shooting and moral. I use them for playing solo, there is even a AI-mode, if you like.
For questions, there is the grimdark forum.
These rules are inspirated by the 40K universe, that is the biggest group of wargamers today.

pfmodel13 Jan 2022 11:10 p.m. PST

While not modern warfare this German training film from 1944 gives you a feel for small arm action. It is an idealised situation, but interesting nonetheless.
YouTube link

UshCha14 Jan 2022 1:27 a.m. PST

pfmodel great link!

bpmasher14 Jan 2022 7:59 a.m. PST

Thanks for all the resources!

edit: I will start with a RPG / skirmish game with maps and tokens, see if my "generic" system can handle a small-unit skirmish.

pfmodel14 Jan 2022 11:41 a.m. PST

Its always fun designing a set of rules, hope it all works out for you.

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