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"Why another set of modern rules?" The designer of Battle Captain poses this question in his introduction to this game, and his answer is that he feels previous games did not do proper credit to the role of the infantry in modern combat. "I am an infantryman," Bruce Conard writes, "and for that reason, the infantry is relatively powerful in this set of rules." His other goal was to produce a playable game which did not sacrifice historical accuracy.
The fighting units are "company team" in size (as the rules state, "This is not a game for battalions!"). An infantry squad is typically 2 stands in size; 7 infantry stands generally make up an infantry platoon. At 10 meters per inch and 30 seconds per turn, Battle Captain has an extremely tactical feel. (The designer suggests that the alternate ground scale of 1 inch = 25 meters is more suitable for battles in which infantry is scarce.)
As for the rules themselves, they were obviously designed with playability in mind. The concepts are simple. The writing is sometimes a bit obscure, but this is partially balanced by the structure of the rulebook &nash; the designer first provides an overview of the game, then a detailed summary of the game, and then the rules themselves. If a rule seems unclear, the player can often go back to the summary or overview and find the answer to his question.
Unlike many miniatures games, Battle Captain does not require a referee or umpire. Tasks which an umpire might normally perform, such as providing for hidden movement of stands, are handled by the players themselves.
The Sequence of Play
Though the rules are fairly basic, Battle Captain has a relatively intricate sequence of play. Each game turn consists of these steps:
|Movement||One player moves all of his units, then the other player moves. Order is determined by die roll each turn.|
|Plot artillery||Players request artillery support for future turns (depending on era, the delay can be from 3 to 9 turns). Defending units can call for Final Protective Fire (1 turn delay).|
|First missile phase||Older-style (1st generation) anti-tank missiles must declare fire. Their backblast exposes them.|
|Suppressive fire||Units may engage their enemies with the idea of making them "keep their heads down," rather than to cause casualties. If a stand receives suppressive fire, it cannot be attacked again this turn.|
|Artillery fire||Previously requested artillery barrages now land. Mortars may also fire.|
|Infantry actions||Infantry may attack armor or other infantry. Tanks and direct-fire artillery may fire at infantry. Both players may attack; all combat is simultaneous.|
|Armor actions||Both players may attack with their tanks and anti-tank guns. Stands fire in priority order, based on their type, movement this turn, and/or the Fire Priority value from their data sheet.|
|AA guns fire||Hits against aircraft are cumulative. When a plane's damage level reaches a critical level, the aircraft crashes.|
|Aircraft strikes||Planes now make their attack runs.|
|Second missile phase||Second-generation anti-tank missiles may attack their targets. Previously fired, first-generation missiles now hit their targets. Anti-aircraft missiles may attack.|
|Morale checks||Morale is handled by platoon or squad. Checks must be made when a unit suffers casualties, if the unit was adjacent to a friendly unit which routed last turn, and for units which have reached a low-morale level.|
Movement. All stands have two movement rates. For infantry, these are "tactical" (40 m/turn) and "open" (80 m/turn). Figures moving at the open rate have a greater movement allowance, but cannot attack, and are more vulnerable to fire. Vehicles have "cross-country" and "road" movement rates. The rates for vehicles are given on the data cards – for instance, the M1A1 Abrams moves 300 m/turn cross-country, and 500 meters on the road.
Adverse terrain reduces a stand's movement rate by a percentage, based on how much of the move was spent in the specific terrain type. The stand's movement class (tracked, heavy or light wheeled vehicle, or infantry) determines the exact penalty.
EXAMPLE: Let's say that a Tiger I finds itself on the edge of a 20-meter-wide woods. Its cross-country movement rate of 150m is reduced (tracked vehicle in the woods) to 25% – to 32.5m. This is more movement than needed to cross the woods (the tank needs only 20 of the 32.5 meters to cross the woods), leaving roughly a third of its original movement rate – 50 meters – left for travel beyond the woods.
Visibility. A stand cannot fire upon another stand unless it can "see" that stand. Visibility depends upon the class of the observer (the four classes are: infantry, "open" vehicles such as jeeps, "open-topped" vehicles such as the M18 Hellcat tank destroyer, and "closed" vehicles such as tanks), the target type (infantry or vehicle), whether or not the target is moving, and the target's cover. Correlating these factors provides a range – if the target is within this range, it is visible. The target receives the cover benefit if the line of sight crosses the cover, regardless of whether the target is actually in the cover terrain (i.e. for sighting purposes, hiding just beyond the bushes is just as useful as hiding in the bushes).
There is an important exception to the visibility rules. Tanks and anti-tank guns may use "recon by fire" to attempt to locate hidden enemy tanks. If the attack succeeds, the player must reveal any tank which exists at the target location. The target receives no damage, but now that it has been revealed, it can be attacked normally by any remaining eligible attackers.
Rules are provided for a number of special situations, including: smoke, minefields, hand-to-hand fighting, and "riverine" combat (attacks on boats and amphibious vehicles).
The same basic mechanism is used throughout the combat system though the details differ depending on the type of attack. In short, the situation (weapon type, range, and so forth) determines the combat result. However, the attacker also rolls dice, which results in a random modifier to the final result.
Infantry actions. All attacks on the same target or area must be combined into a single attack. Each weapon has a specific attack factor, depending upon its range to the target. The attacker then rolls percentile dice and consults the Dice Variables table to receive a random modifier. The total attack factor, plus the random modifier, is checked against the Effects on Target chart. The chart's results also depend on the status of the target (in prepared positions, hasty positions, no positions, or travel movement). Correlating these considerations, the chart produces the number of casualties to be inflicted upon all enemies in the target area.
EXAMPLE: An advancing enemy squad (4 stands) comes under fire from two rifle teams and a pintle-mounted heavy machinegun. Since none of the firing weapons are area effect weapons, they can select individual targets; but if the attack had included a direct-fire howitzer, for instance, all of the attacks would be combined as a single attack against the howitzer's area of fire.
The attacker chooses to attack one stand with both assault rifle teams, and another stand with the HMG (leaving two enemy stands unattacked).
At a range of 300 meters, the assault rifle teams do 1 combat factor each. On a roll of 83, the attacker adds a +5 random modifier. The total attack is 1 + 1 + 5 = 7 factors, against a moving enemy, for a chart result of 1 casualty.
As for the heavy machinegun, it has 3 combat factors at this range. The random modifier is 0 (bad roll). The attack of 3 factors on a moving enemy results in no casualties.
Tank actions. An important consideration is that tank actions, unlike infantry actions, do not occur simultaneously. If a tank is knocked out before its chance to fire, it will never get to make its attack. The order of fire is:
- stationary anti-tank guns fire
- stationary tanks fire in Fire Priority order
- moving vehicles fire in Fire Priority order
- anti-tank guns which switched facing this turn may now fire
- stationary tanks which held their fire may now attack, in Fire Priority order
- Stationary anti-tank guns which held their fire may now attack
If several stands qualify to fire at the same time, dice are rolled to determine the order in which they may attack.
Each vehicle's data card lists for each weapon the percentage chance to hit at several ranges. This chance may be modified by several factors, including movement, smoke, cover or hull-down positions, training level of the attacker, and whether the attacker has been fired at this turn. If the firer was successfully attacked by suppression fire earlier, this may also modify his chance to hit. There is a penalty for first shots at a target.
If the round hits, the attacker must determine if it penetrates. The data card lists penetration by range. A random bonus of up to 5 points is added. The target's armor value depends on its facing to the attacker (front, flank or rear). If a vehicle has certain types of armor (composite or spaced) and is attacked in the proper circumstances, a bonus is applied to the armor score.
If penetration exceeds armor value, the vehicle is knocked out. Otherwise, it remains in play.
EXAMPLE: A U.S. M60A1 tank is approaching a Soviet T-72M tank in a hull-down position. The Soviet vehicle, being motionless, gets to shoot first.
At the range of 1100 meters, the T-72 has a base chance to hit (with its 125mm main gun firing HVAPDS ammunition) of 80%. This is modified by -10% (target moving at greater than 500 meters range) and by -10% (first shot at greater than 500 meters range) – the final chance is 80 - 10 - 10 = 60%. On a roll of 16, the shot easily hits. Penetration at this range with this ammunition is 34 points, though with a poor roll, the attacker gets no bonus points. Unfortunately, the total penetration of 34 points bounces off the M60's front armor value of 35. (If the Soviet player had scored any bonus penetration points, the M60 would be dead and unable to return fire.)
Later, the M60 makes its attack. Its 105mm gun firing APDS rounds has a base to-hit chance of 87%. This is modified by: -30% (target is in a hull defilade position), -10% (first shot), -30% (firer moved, range greater than 500 meters), -10% (firer has been shot at) – final to-hit chance is 87 - 30 - 10 - 30 - 10 = 7%. With a die roll of 96, the shot misses.
Artillery fire. Forward observers and platoon leaders may call for artillery fire. The artillery target must be specified at this time. The delay between request and receipt of the mission depends on the era, the relationship between the battery and the requesting unit, and the training of the stand requesting fire – it may be a 2 turn wait, or a 10 turn wait. Final Protective Fires (FPF) are the exception, requested by the tactical commander and arriving in 1 turn.
When the artillery mission arrives, accuracy is determined. There is roughly a 50% chance that the mission will land on target. If it misses, it could deviate as much as 200 meters. (The deviation is doubled if the barrage is map fire, rather than guided by an observer.)
The barrage chart lists the lethality of each battery. To this, a random modifier is added based on the attacker's dieroll. There is a bonus if enemy targets are tightly grouped in the target zone. The result, checked against the Effects on Target chart, determine the casualties inflicted. The hits are divided among all units in the battery's barrage area.
Once a battery begins firing, its fire may be "shifted." This is treated as a normal artillery mission except that the delay is 2 turns, the target may be moved 100 meters, and no accuracy roll is required.
EXAMPLE: In a guerilla war during the 1960's, a forward observer calls for artillery support from a platoon of 81mm mortars organic to his unit. The target location is plotted, and the turn delay is 4 turns. Four turns later, the mission arrives – just as a platoon of infiltrators have gotten themselves hung on barbed wire in the target zone.
No accuracy modifiers happen to apply. The dieroll is 21 – the mission deviates 50 meters to the left. However, the area of effect for a platoon of 81mm mortars is a square 75 meters by 75 meters… at least some of the enemy will come under fire.
The battery's lethality is 10 points, but the attacker suffers a poor dieroll, and receives a random modifier of -7. Fortunately, the enemy are tightly grouped along the barbed wire, providing a +4 bonus. The final score of 10 - 7 + 4 = 7 points, against an enemy in the open, results in 1 casualty.
Casualties and Morale
When a morale check must be made, the player rolls percentile dice and consults the Results of Morale chart. Before modifiers are applied, each unit has better than a 50% chance to fail its morale roll. However, the dieroll can be modified by a large number of factors, including casualties previously incurred, the training level and type of unit, the presence of friendly officers, and the nature of the attack. A failed morale check may result in a unit surrendering, routing, or losing half or all of its firepower. Stands engaging in an attack may also be declared immobile. The results remain in force until the next morale phase, when the unit must make a new morale check.
EXAMPLE: A tank platoon and an infantry squad are defending a hilltop, and have come under attack from enemy armor supported by an artillery barrage. One of the tanks has been immobilized, and the infantry have taken 30% casualties so far. Each unit must make a separate morale check.
For the tank platoon, these modifiers happen to apply –
-10, mobility killAs for the infantry platoon –
-20, under artillery fire
-25, under tank attack
+15, higher officer close
+20, unit has artillery support
+25, unit has friends close
+20, in prepared positions
+20, unit is a tank unit
FINAL MODIFIER = +45
-35, 30% casualtiesThe dieroll is made for the tank platoon – 97, a clear success! Actually, being on the tactical defensive with a modifier greater than 34, the unit was immune to harmful results. However, a poor roll would have forced the unit to make a new morale roll next turn.
-20, under artillery fire
-25, under tank attack
+15, higher officer close
+20, unit has artillery support
+25, unit has friends close
+10, friendly tank support
+20, in prepared positions
FINAL MODIFIER = +10
For the infantry platoon, a disastrous 09 is rolled on percentile dice. The modifier makes this a 19, resulting in "no fire" – the infantry unit has been stripped of its firepower. (The men must be cowering in their foxholes…)
In this example, I have used the "generic" morale modifiers. However, data cards also provide individualized morale modifiers for several different nationalities and eras.
The Data Sheets
The data listings for the most part come two to an 8.5" x 11" card. Some quick work with a paper cutter can turn these into individual 8.5" x 5.5" cards, which are more manageable.
Each listing provides the name of the vehicle, period of service (WWII or modern), armor rating (front/flank/rear), fire priority, and speed (road/tactical). Firing tables are provided for various combinations of weapons and ammunition. Small-arms may have different ratings, depending on where the target is in relation to the firer (frontal or flank/rear). Each vehicle is rated for size (large or small, from front or flank). Notes indicate whether the vehicle has thermal sights, composite armor, stabilisation, smoke grenades, or a smoke generator.
Unlike vehicles, infantry come in several generic flavors. There are 11 weapon types (assault rifle, auto-rifle, bolt-action rifle, submachinegun, light machinegun, heavy machinegun, 20mm, squad automatic weapon, grenade launchers, auto-grenade launchers, and light mortars) subdivided by crew size (2-man, 3-man, etc.), resulting in 20+ categories.
Wire-guided missiles and infantry anti-tank weapons are listed on the data cards as a series of tables.
Artillery is listed on another chart. WWII artillery is "generic," but modern guns are categorized as NATO or Warsaw Pact. Missions are expected to fire by platoon (mortars) or by battery (the big guns), and barrage sizes – the size of area affected by a single barrage – are listed on this basis, as well as by individual tube/gun.
The Unit Organization Sheets
Roughly the last half of the rulebook consists of unit organizations. These focus on infantry units, and provide the information for basing and gaming with the infantry. Some sheets provide new firepower values for specific units.
Most of the sheets come in 2-sheet sets – one for companies, and another for miscellaneous units at battalion level. The information is not always complete, so it helps if the player is knowledgeable about the period. For instance, the British Motor Battalion sheet provides the organizations for the MMG and AT platoons, but does not tell how many Motor Companies compose a Motor Battalion.
EXAMPLE: The North Vietnamese Regular Company sheet says that a typical squad consists of a 4-man base (assault rifle/SAW) and another 4-man base (assault rifle/RPG). Three such squads compose the platoon, led by a 3-infantry platoon leader stand. Three such platoons, plus a Machinegun Platoon (two 4-man assault rifle/LMG stands led by a 3-man platoon leader stand) make up the company – Company HQ consists of two 3-man and one 4-man infantry stands.
Organization sheets are provided for these units:
U.S. Armored Infantry Battalion, 1944
British Motor Battalion, 1944
Soviet Rifle Battalion
Soviet Motorized SMG Battalion
German Infantry Regiment, 1944
German Volksgrenadier Infantry Battalion
U.S. Rifle Company, 1968
U.S. Marine Corp Rifle Company, 1960's
North Vietnamese Regular Battalion
Israeli Paratroop Company, 1967-75
Egyptian Motorized Infantry Company (BTR-50)
Egyptian Antitank-Antiaircraft Company
Egyptian Heavy Weapons Batteries
U.S. Mechanized Infantry 1984-91 (M2)
Iraqi Mechanized Battalion, 1991
Iraqi Special Forces Company
Russian Airborne Company (BMD)
Former Warsaw Pact Rebel Infantry (Mechanized)
Turkish Mechanized Infantry Company, 1993