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"MG Stands in Over the Top" Topic

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Achtung Minen24 Jul 2022 8:24 a.m. PST

I'm trying to wrap my head around GDW's Over the Top. Something which has popped up in the rules is how you are meant to represent MG stands… in particular, the rules say that…

1) You should use different numbers of figurines on a stand to represent the number of dice rolled and…
2) Certain nations will use double-sized stands for their MGs

This seems somewhat noisome though… it would mean having two sets of MGs depending on the year of the scenario you happen to be playing (e.g. Russians in 1914 would only have a single figure while in 1915 they would need two figures per stand). Leaving aside the fact that an MG crewed by a single person looks bizarre, this is especially annoying because OTT requires you to have so many machineguns… for example, an American infantry division requires you to collect and paint 36 machinegun stands! In a way, I wish the rules modelled machinegun companies as a single stand rather than 3 or so separate stands, as this is how they were historically deployed as far as I can tell.

Furthermore, I am not sure I understand the purpose of the double-sized MG stands… do you still put only a single MG team in the center of a 1.5" wide, 0.75" deep base? That seems like it would look odd… are you supposed to mount two different MG crews rather that only one? Why is the double-sized base important… were German MG platoons deployed over a much wider area of ground than their Allied Power counterparts? The number of MGs per platoon doesn't seem to be significantly different so I am not sure why the double base is necessary.

Lastly, all of these rules are preceded by the word "optionally"… is there any harm in simply ignoring these rules entirely?

monk2002uk24 Jul 2022 12:41 p.m. PST

I don't know these rules but can give you an historical perspective if that helps. If I understand correctly then the basic infantry stand in the game is a platoon, is that right?

Also, is there a specific period of WW1 that you are interested in?


Achtung Minen24 Jul 2022 1:55 p.m. PST

Yes, a stand is a platoon (40-60 men) or a section of 4-6 field guns. An American Machine-gun Battalion has four companies of three MG stands each.

I am new to WW1 so I think I'll start with the stereotypical "late war Western front" that is considered so passť by most WW1 gamers… I may one day branch out into the odd scenarios like East Africa that people seem to find so interesting, but I think trenchlines and Mark IV's are better for me at the moment.

I am weighing my options for rulesets for regimental or higher levels of command. I've considered Great War Spearhead but didn't love the shooting mechanic. I'm intrigued by Battles with Brusilov as I love Fire & Fury game mechanics, but I cannot for the life of me find a copy of the rules. I'm not much of a fan of modern style rulesets. So far the two sets I am trying out are Over the Top and Trenchlines (the Panzer Korps supplement). Over the Top is getting points in my book for being an older ruleset (something I prefer) and for allowing a larger regiment or brigade-size game that still lets you model small unit tactics. Trenchline is getting points in my book for allowing you to actually simulate divisional-size operations in the course of a single game session (something which most rulesets, OTT included, cannot really accomplish without buckling under the pressure). I play solo, so there are some aspects of these games (like hidden orders) that I just fudge.

IainJL24 Jul 2022 2:12 p.m. PST

Have you thought about the updated rules on test of battle? There isn't a stand alone WW1 set but the early war campaigns convert for 1914 and the scenario sets are really good.

Big bloody battles have a WW1 conversion on their files set (again more 1914). On 1918 I actually like the flames of war set (company to battalion) for fun games.

In lockdown I played around with spearhead using the test of battle scenarios (spearhead is a level up)..

Achtung Minen24 Jul 2022 2:45 p.m. PST

I have briefly read about the differences between older versions of CD and the newest, 4th Edition… I didn't find them all that significant, but I'll admit I only did a cursory review of online comments and don't actually own rulebooks. I gather OTT uses v1.5 of Command Decision but I am not sure exactly what that means with respect to any of the various editions, 1st to 4th. Is there some change in the various editions that you find absolutely essential to an enjoyable game experience?

Achtung Minen24 Jul 2022 4:58 p.m. PST

Come to think of it, neither of these sets may be suitable… they both really seem aimed at large convention games with multiple players per side. Command Decision for example requires dozens if not scores of order chits for each side, with typically upwards of a hundred stands per side. Given the fact that everything resolves simultaneously, that's not a problem when you have one player per battalion and everyone working at the same time… any individual player is only responsible for moving and shooting with about twelve stands (and putting down maybe four or five order chits at most each turn).

Make one player responsible for an entire division, though, and the game seems like it would probably break. Make one player responsible for both the attacking division and the defending division and the rulebook itself may catch fire.

Trenchline may have a similar problem as it seems to expect multiple divisions per side. An average division is only about twelve maneuver elements so one player handling an attacking and defending division is not the end of the world, but make it four or so divisions on each side and you're looking at up to 100 maneuver elements (let alone probably 300-400 figures you need to collect and paint).

So now I am wondering if either of these games is all that appropriate for solo play.

IainJL24 Jul 2022 11:01 p.m. PST

Command decision is more Regiment/ Brigade Level. Spearhead Is divisional. I've certainly handled a regiment on my own. I'm not sure what a good set would be for solo play.

Martin Rapier24 Jul 2022 11:14 p.m. PST

Ive played a bit of OTT, and yes, it is possible to run a whole division but it works much better for a Regiment.

The MG thing is just supposed to be a helpful reminder of the relative strengths of the various units, the game isn't going to break if you ignore it.

The main thing though is that OTT uses platoon sized stands, so yes, you are going to have a ton of infantry and MG platoon stands on the table. Personally I prefer company stands for WW1 as the battlefields are pretty packed with units, so Great War Spearhead or Square Bashing.

It is notable that the 1914 OTT Eastern Front campaign bath tubs entire divisions down to be represented by a couple of battalions, which perhaps recognises the limitations of platoon basing.

Martin Rapier25 Jul 2022 2:22 a.m. PST

Sorry, my mistake, the OTT 1914 supplement uses a single battalion supported by a couple of artillery batteries to represent an entire division(!). So at Stalluponen the Germans have two battalions and a small regimental HQ to represent an entire Corps.

That is still a lot of stands to push around but manageable.

Achtung Minen25 Jul 2022 2:41 a.m. PST

That kind of makes me sad that games like OTT and the original CD don't really exist anymore… a game that is really modeled around big group play. Even the newest version of CD, which is largely the same game mechanically, seems like it has made concessions to the IGOUGO format that is modeled on fewer players. And before some self-declared defender of CD IV comes along, I am sure it is a much better game for that particular kind of experience that is so popular today. It's just a different style and I'm sorry to see the old concept going away. The world has shifted towards small group or 1v1 gameplay. I wonder if this doesn't have something to do with the decline of the large, private gaming club, where everyone would invest in chipping into the same gaming project. Looking at gaming groups in my area these days, I would hesitate to call them clubs at all… more like clusters of many different 1v1 games being played out, all different systems, with usually one person providing all the terrain, minis etc. OTT makes me feel pretty nostalgic about the way it used to be done.

Martin Rapier25 Jul 2022 1:49 p.m. PST

My lot still play in big groups, my last game had nine players, and the one before that, eight.

monk2002uk25 Jul 2022 11:51 p.m. PST

An American Machine-gun Battalion has four companies of three MG stands each.

Thank you for the extra information. This TO&E is modelled on 3 MG platoons per company, where a 1918 AEF MG platoon contained 4 MGs. The 4 MGs represent 2 sections of 2 MGs per section. This was pretty standard across all nations, ensuring that at least one MG was functional at all times in a section.

In 1914, British and French TO&Es had one MG section per infantry battalion. The Germans had already the sections into 1 MG company per regiment. Based on this analysis, OTT has to represent either 1 section or 2 section MG stands. The former should have less firepower stats than the latter.

It should be noted, however, that MG sections were often parcelled out across a defensive front, rather than operating in 4 gun platoons. This doesn't really matter from a game perspective but it is worth remembering from an historical perspective.


Achtung Minen26 Jul 2022 5:14 a.m. PST

That's interesting information, but what could be the explanation for double-stands? As far as I know, double-sized stands don't have more dice than any other stands… they are just twice as wide (1.5" instead of 3/4"). For example, the American MG stands in the book are small (i.e. regular) stands and roll three dice each, while the German MG stands are big (double-size) and roll the same number of dice (3).

monk2002uk26 Jul 2022 7:50 a.m. PST

Doesn't make any sense to me.


Achtung Minen26 Jul 2022 5:38 p.m. PST

Thanks for the help Robert. I think I'll ignore those rules as it would just mean duplicating my effort with painting MGs.

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