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Players command multi-battalion forces, using division-level tactics. Pre-game orders determine how units perform, with limited ability to change plans on the fly. Playable rules.

Arty Conliffe
Quantum Printing
Year Published
In Print
44-page rules booklet, 50-page organization booklet, six player charts
Grand-Tactical. 15-30 minutes per turn. Ground scale is 1" = 100 yards. Each stand represents a platoon of infantry or armor.
Each stand is 1¼" square. Usually one vehicle per base; any number of infantry figures per base.

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This entry created by Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian on 21 September 1997. Last revised by Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian on 12 December 2016.

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©1994-2024 Bill Armintrout
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Rules and Organizations for Division-Level WW-II Wargaming

Rating: gold star gold star gold star gold star gold star gold star gold star gold star no star no star (8.29)
Total Votes: 17


Designer's Goals

Arty Conliffe had a specific goal in mind when designing Spearhead:

…many WW II games function no differently than western shoot-outs with big guns. In these games we see tank and infantry units moving randomly about the battlefield, with no regard for unit boundaries, orders or operating doctrine, blowing-up whatever targets may appear…

We believe that a set of rules seeking to recreate Division-level maneuvers cannot work without a system for representing unit orders. Orders that bind Battalions to specific actions on the tabletop serve to limit the unrealistic advantages of a player's helicopter view. This prevents the absurdity of a player moving units arbitrarily back and forth across the tabletop in perfect response to every move of his opponent.


The basic building blocks of the game are Fighting Battalions, which include such formations as armor and infantry. To these are added Support Battalions, specialist formations such as anti-tank, FLAK, recon, special armor, engineer and artillery battalions. The scenario designer may also assign air sorties to the side with air superiority.

The Tables of Organization booklet lists the available formations for different divisions. For example, a 1943-45 U.S. Infantry Division includes these elements:

Fighting Battalionsinfantry battalion
tank battalion
Support Battalionstank destroyer battalion
artillery battalion
medium artillery battalion
recon troop
engineer battalion
anti-aircraft battalion

Rules limit the amount of support which can be attached to a single battalion. Support battalions also have the option of fighting as independent formations.

EXAMPLE: Based on the infantry division listed above, a player could start with an infantry battalion, then add support (a company of tanks, a company of tank destroyers, and a company of engineers), and then artillery firing in support (an anti-aircraft battalion, and two artillery battalions). This example represents the maximum amount of support which can be added to a single battalion.

Each battalion is made up of companies or batteries, which are in turn made up of a number of stands (representing platoon-size forces).

EXAMPLE: The infantry battalion from the above example consists of:

Headquartersone HQ stand
(in staff car/truck)
one 57/52 anti-tank gun
(with truck)
Infantry Companythree rifle stands
Infantry Companythree rifle stands
Infantry Companythree rifle stands
Weapons Companytwo heavy machine-gun (HMG) stands
one 81mm mortar stand
(in truck)

Plus the supporting elements:

Tank Companythree M4 Shermans
Tank Destroyer Companythree M10 tank destroyers
one M20 armored car
Engineer Companythree engineer stands (rifles)
(in trucks)

Plus the anti-aircraft artillery battalion:

Headquartersone HQ stand
(in jeep)
Batterytwo M16 MGMCs
two 40/56 AA guns
(with trucks)
Batterytwo M16 MGMCs
two 40/56 AA guns
(with trucks)
Batterytwo M16 MGMCs
two 40/56 AA guns
(with trucks)
Batterytwo M16 MGMCs
two 40/56 AA guns
(with trucks)

And two artillery battalions:

Artillery Battalionthree 105/25mm howitzers
(with trucks)
Artillery Battalionthree 105/25mm howitzers
(with trucks)

Each battalion is also assigned a Morale rating (Green, Regular, or Veteran). Early-war French and Russian are not assigned Morale ratings, but are given random Morale ratings as they enter combat.


According to the designer:

The essential feature of Spearhead's conception of WW II warfare is the fundamental importance of the commander's plan of battle… Orders underscore the importance of tactical planning and reduce the advantage of the player's 'Helicopter View' of the battlefield. Orders also reflect the relative inflexibility of 'committed' units.

Prior to play, Orders must be issued to each battalion in play. There are four types of Orders:

Defend OrdersThe unit is tied to defending a specific location.
Attack OrdersThe unit is plotted to follow a particular course in order to reach a specified objective. Once the battalion reaches its goal, it defends that location.
Timed OrdersAllows a player to give a series of objectives to a battalion, tied to specific game turn. For instance, a battalion might be ordered to attack Hill A at the start of the game, then to attack Town B starting on Turn Eight. (If the battalion captures Hill A on turn four, it would defend that hill until turn eight, when it would move to attack the town.)
Flank March OrdersA Flank March allows a player to bring in his forces from the sides of the playing field. Up to one-third of a player's force may be assigned to flank march. A flank march is otherwise identical to an Attack Order, except that an arrival time (game turn) must be specified. The exact arrival time of the flank marching unit(s) is determined by die roll, modified by nationality.

A player may also designate some of his forces as a Reserve Force. These battalions are kept either off-table or to the rear until activated. No reserves can be activated prior to the sighting of the enemy. Reserves do not need to be given specific orders (i.e., Defend, Attack, etc.) prior to play.

Sequence of Play

Spearhead is played in a series of turns, each of which is composed of the following steps:

Determine InitiativeBoth players roll dice, receiving modifiers due to nationality. The high roller selects whether to be move first or second this turn.
MovementFirst Player Moves His ForcesThe player moves his forces, obeying strict restrictions due to the Orders his battalions have been given.
Second Player Moves His ForcesAs above.
CombatAir Attacks
Anti-Air Attacks
Indirect Fire (Artillery)

Both players conduct combat simultaneously, but firing by certain classes of units must be resolved (and applied) before other units can fire.

According to the designer, "This firing sequence represents rate/volume of fire as well as flexible target acquisition."

Only units which moved half speed or less can fire.

Stationary Infantry Fire
Anti-Tank Guns Fire
Stationary Vehicles Fire
Moving Infantry Fire
Moving Vehicles Fire
Morale ChecksIf any battalion has reached a Break Point, it must make a Morale Check. A unit which fails morale is immediately removed from play.
Close CombatResolve CombatClose Combat represents fighting by stands which are in physical contact, due to an assault or overrun.
Morale ChecksAs per Morale Checks, above.
Command PhasePlayers may commit their reserves or (within strict limits) change a unit's orders. Suppressed units may rally.


A unit's ability to move depends upon its Orders.

Stands of a battalion on Defend Orders cannot move beyond the Command Zone of their battalion commander; further, the battalion commander cannot move at all. Within the restrictions above, stands of the battalion can move against (or pivot towards) enemy stands which have been spotted by any stand within their battalion.

A battalion with an Attack Order must follow its pre-plotted course; in fact, the battalion commander literally "rides" the path of the movement arrow. Stands within the battalion must advance until contact with the enemy has been made, remaining within the Command Zone of their commander. Once contact has been made, the battalion is expected to continue to advance but mandatory minimum movement requirements are suspended. Stands must generally face in the direction of the advance.

Command Zone restrictions are relaxed slightly for supporting stands (such as anti-tank guns or forward observers) and recon companies.

The ability of a stand to move is affected by the terrain through which is is moving. Roads provide some aid, but not as much as under some other rules systems. According to the designer:

Although roads were indispensable in mobile warfare, the large formations of WW II benefitted most from roads when moving strategically across large areas when the enemy was not at hand. Furthermore, road conditions varied tremendously. When actually in the battle area… the roads were less important.

When moving, a stand first pivots, then moves in a straight line (unless following a road, or following the edge of a terrain feature such as woods).

Infantry may be transported by other vehicles. Trucks which carry infantry are removed from play once the soldiers dismount, and never return. Infantry which ride bicycles or motorcycles are mounted with their transport on the same stand, and never dismount. Infantry mounted in halftracks are based together with their halftracks on the same stands, and special rules apply to them. "Halftrack infantry" may choose to dismount, in which case the halftrack stands are permanently replaced with regular infantry stands. Certain nationalities have special infantry platoons which can ride tanks into battle.


A stand is "spotted" when it comes within spotting range of an enemy stand. This range depends upon the type of unit being spotted (vehicle or infantry), the terrain (open or cover), and whether the stand has fired. A stationary stand upon a hill is always treated as if in cover.

A stand which has not been spotted cannot be fired upon.

If a stand is motionless and in cover when first spotted, it is considered in Ambush. It cannot be fired at in the current turn.

EXAMPLE: A U.S. M4 Sherman platoon is advancing across a field. As a vehicle in the open, it can be spotted by any enemy stands within 1800 yards (18"). In this case, let's say that it is seen by an entrenched German rifle stand at a range of 600 yards. However, the tank does not spot the enemy infantry, since spotting range for infantry in cover (entrenchments) is 300 yards (3").

Air and Anti-Air

Each aircraft stand represents one Sortie by 2-4 actual aircraft. Each stand can fly only a single mission (one turn). Only ground support aircraft are covered within these rules. The game charts provide for these aircraft:

* According to the rules,"…virtually any western front allied aircraft that is not a B-17…"

The charts also indicate which weapon loads the different aircraft are capable of carrying: bombs, rockets, or anti-tank cannons. Each sortie can only carry one weapon type.

The player with air assets is assigned one or more Air/Ground Controller (AGC) stands. The AGC must spot its target and succeed at a Call-In Roll (modified by nationality) for the aircraft to enter play. If the call-in is successful, the plane is placed at the location where the ground attack is to take place (it does not "fly in" from the table edges).

The plane is now subject to attacks by any dedicated anti-aircraft weapons within range of the attack. As a result of a successful anti-aircraft attack, the aircraft might either be destroyed or forced to wait and try the same attack again next turn.

If the sortie avoids the flak, it then attacks a Beaten Zone which is 600 yards deep by 140 yards wide. The plane's weapon load determines how many and which targets in the zone are attacked. An attack roll is then made for each target, with the dice being modified by the presence of anti-aircraft stands, terrain, and target movement (vehicles only). If the attack roll equals or exceeds the attack score for that sortie's weapon load, the target is destroyed.

EXAMPLE: An American Air-Ground Controller spots two advancing German tanks, and attempts to call-in air support from one of the sorties assigned to his side at the start of the scenario. Being U.S. means that he has a basic two-thirds chance of success. On a die roll of "3," he gets his sortie. He decides to place the aircraft stand in front of the two German armor stands.

Now the German player gets to fire his anti-aircraft weapons. He has a qualifying (stationary) Mobelwagon stand within range (1200 yards), with a FLAK Factor of "2" (not particularly powerful). The Jabo has a Defense Factor of "4," which compared to the FLAK factor means the German has a -2 modifier to his dieroll. On a dieroll of "5," which is modified to a "3," the anti-aircraft fire is unsuccessful (he needed at least a "4" to cause the plane to abort).

The U.S. player now determines which targets are within the Beaten Zone – in this case, the two Stug III's previously mentioned, plus a rifle stand in the distance. Because this plane is armed with Bombs, the target rules result in an attack against the foremost of the tanks, and the infantry stand.

Resolving the anti-armor attack: The plane's bomb load has an Attack Factor of "4," which means that any roll of 4 or higher on one die will destroy the target. The die roll is modified by the tank's movement this turn (-1) and the presence of the Mobelwagon (-1). On a dieroll of "5," modified to a "3," the Stug III is spared.

The attack on the infantry stand is resolved similarly. The attack factor is the same, modified this time only by the presence of the Mobelwagon (-1). On a dieroll of "5," modified to a "4," the infantry stand is eliminated.

The aircraft stand now exits play, having fulfilled the single mission allowed to it.


Artillery functions in a manner similar to air attacks. For each artillery battalion, there is a Forward Observer (FO) stand provided. In other cases (such as organic mortar units), one of the platoons within the battalion is designated as the FO stand for attached indirect-fire stands.

The FO must be able to spot his target, and then succeed at a Call-In dieroll (modified by nationality and chain of command). Once artillery has been called in on a target, it can continue to fire on consecutive turns at the same or nearby targets. Each battery is limited to firing a number of missions per game as indicated by the scenario designer, and has both a minimum and a maximum range.

Artillery can fire either High Explosive or Smoke missions. A high explosive mission results in an attack on the target stand (only). Smoke missions create a field of smoke (of a size dependent on the number of batteries and size of the shells). A dieroll determines if a smoke mission succeeds; if it does, the field may be stoked (continued) on future turns without a dieroll.

Additional rules allow for on-table artillery units to make direct-fire attacks, pre-planned bombardments, rocket artillery, and for artillery to function in General Support rather than attached to specific battalions.

EXAMPLE: An American FO sights the Stug III and calls in an artillery mission from one of the off-table artillery batteries attached to his infantry battalion. Due to his nationality and the fact that the battalions are divisional assets, there is a basic two-thirds chance of success. On a dieroll of "5," the artillery responds to the call.

The battery is a 105/25mm howitzer, with two Attack Factors: "2" (anti-tank) and "5" (anti-infantry). The Stug III has a Defense Factor (using its frontal armor rating) of "6." Comparing the anti-tank attack factor against the defense factor, the attack will have a modifier of -4.

Any modifier of -3 or more means that the attack cannot succeed. Therefore, the American player opts to try Suppressive Fire. The player rolls two dice, without modifiers, with any result of "11" or "12" meaning that the target is suppressed. The player rolls a "7," and the Stug III is unaffected by the fire of this battery.

Direct Fire

Using Direct Fire, stands can fire at enemy stands which are within spotting range and to which they can trace a Line of Sight (LOS). All stands also have a maximum range at which they can attack.

Stands can only attack during the appropriate phase of the turn (see the Sequence of Play, above). In addition, stands are limited when selecting their target by range (they must generally fire at the nearest target), arc of fire, and by the fire priority rules (stands prefer to fire at enemy stands of their same type – tank vs. tank, and infantry vs. infantry). No stand can fire if it moved more than half its movement allowance. A few stands (such as turretless vehicles and crew-served weapons) are prohibited from firing if they have moved in the current turn.

Special rules apply to Support Weapons (such as a heavy machinegun stand), allowing them to fire through friendly stands and to trace their Line of Fire from an adjacent stand which they are supporting.

In general, an Attack Roll in Spearhead is made with a single six-sided die, with a result of "4 or 5" causing the target to become Suppressed, and a result of "6" eliminating the target. The firer's Attack Factor and the target's Defense Factor count as modifiers to the dieroll. Terrain also provides modifiers.

Turreted vehicles can gain additional protection by declaring themselves to be Hull Down. To be hull down, a vehicle must be stationary on the highest level of a hill. The Hull Down modifier varies according to the data chart for each vehicle type, and applies only to direct-fire attacks made by lower-altitude attackers from the frontal aspect.

Many types of weapons have both an Anti-Tank (AT) and Anti-Infantry (AI) attack factor, to be used against different classes of targets. Most armored vehicles have two defense factors (frontal and flank), used depending on the direction from which the attack comes. Certain armored vehicles with "open" tops or sides have two defense factors (anti-tank and anti-infantry).

If the final attack roll modifier is -3 or worse, the attack has no chance of success. In this case, the player can instead make a Suppressive Fire attack. Any roll of "11 or 12" results in the target becoming Suppressed.

Additional rules cover fire against "disappearing" targets (a target which moved out of sight), submachineguns, infantry anti-tank attacks, high-velocity guns, passengers, towed weapons, tank-borne infantry, and flamethrowers.

EXAMPLE: The advancing Stug III confronts a stationary M4E8 Sherman tank and a moving American rifle stand. Due to the Sequence of Play, the Sherman will fire first, then the moving infantry. The Stug III is an assault gun, and cannot fire while moving.

The Sherman has an Anti-Tank attack factor of "7", while the Stug III has a frontal Defense Factor of "6." No other modifiers apply. Therefore, the American has a +1 modifier to his dieroll. On a roll of "4" (modified to a "5"), the German vehicle is Suppressed.

Now the infantry has the option to attack, using the special infantry anti-armor rules. The rifle stand has an anti-tank factor of "5," versus the Stug III's flank armor defense factor of "3". Since the infantry anti-tank factor exceeds the defense factor, the infantry attack will eliminate the target on a roll of "5 or 6." The American player rolls a "1," and the attack fails.


Each battalion has a Morale Rating, of either Green, Regular, or Veteran. The Morale Rating determines how many Break Points a battalion has. For instance, a Green unit has three Break Points, while a Veteran unit has only one.

Whenever a battalion takes enough damage (measured in terms of stands) to push it past one of its Break Points, a Morale Check is required. A dieroll is made, with the battalion having a basic two-thirds chance of failing the roll. A battalion which fails morale is immediately removed from play.

Close Combat

There are two forms of Close Combat: Infantry Assaults and Overruns. The primary difference is that Infantry Assaults are performed by infantry stands, while Overruns are performed by armored vehicles. Target priority rules restrict the selection of targets, as does terrain.

The close combat is initiated during the Movement Phase, when the attackers declare their intent and move into contact with enemy stands. They must have been able to spot the enemy prior to movement. The target of an Infantry Assault is pinned and cannot move; the target of an Overrun can attempt to Break-Off, but risks being pursued and destroyed. Stands which have declared Close Combat attacks cannot fire during the Fire Phase; the defending stands can fire, but only against their close-combat attackers.

The combat is resolved during the Close Combat Phase, assuming that both sides continue to have eligible stands present. If there are multiple stands on both sides, the close combat is broken down into separate combats.

One die is rolled for each stand (if there is more than one stand per side, each rolls and the best result is used). The high roller wins; in the event of a tie, the side with higher morale wins; if both sides have similar morale, the dice are re-rolled. Modifiers to the dieroll apply due to terrain, weapon type, situation, and morale. As an optional rule, the attacker receives a bonus for attacking from the flank.

The losing side loses one stand, and retreats a double move with all other stands.

EXAMPLE: During the Movement Phase, two stands of German Engineers declare their intent to Infantry Assault an American anti-tank gun. The German stands are moved into contact with their target. The anti-tank gun cannot flee from an infantry assault, even if the American player has not yet moved his units.

During the Firing Phase, the American gun fires at one of the engineer stands, Suppressing it. This knocks that stand out of the Close Combat (it moves back 1", out of contact with the enemy).

When the Close Combat Phase rolls around, one die is rolled for each stand. The engineer receives modifiers for being Assault Engineers (+1) and Veterans (+1), but there is a penalty due to the target being entrenched (-1), for a final modifier of "+1." The anti-tank gun has a modifier of -1, due to being a crew-served weapon.

The German player rolls a "1," which is modified to a "2." The American player rolls a "5," which is modified to a "4." Since the American total exceeds the German total, the Germans lose – the engineer stand is eliminated.

Command Phase

During the Command Phase, a player may change Orders, Rally units, or (as previously described) commit his Reserves.

Rallying the Suppressed. A stand can become Suppressed during the course of play, which means that it cannot move or fire. A Suppressed stand which receives a second Suppressed result is eliminated. Therefore, it is important to be able to Rally these stands, restoring them to normal status.

There is a basic 50% chance of Rallying a Suppressed stand, but modifiers apply due to the Morale Rating of the stand's parent formation, as well as the presence of un-Suppressed headquarters stands.

Changing Orders. Before the first turn, each player assigns Orders to his battalions. These Orders can be changed during the Command Phase, but only if the battalion commander is un-Suppressed, if an enemy has been spotted, and (non-Germans only) the unit is neither firing nor being fired upon by Direct Fire. Only one order change may be made per side per turn, except in larger games.

Changing orders also requires a successful Order Change Roll, modified by nationality (and for Russians, by year). Germans can usually change orders, the Western Allies have a 50% chance of changing orders, and Russians find it very difficult to change orders.

A battalion which otherwise cannot change orders may Break-Off contact with the enemy. In order to conduct a Break-Off, the formation must have taken losses due to fire from an enemy stand which remains visible. The breaking-off battalion then retreats for at least two full turns (the owning player can retreat further if he desires), making no attacks while so moving, and then acts as if under Defend orders.

The Rest of the Rules

Spearhead also provides rules for:

Higher-Level HeadquartersFor use in large scenarios, in which entire regiments and brigades are committed.
WrecksVehicles destroyed while on roads become wrecks, inhibiting road movement until cleared.
RussiansAdvanced rules force Russian formations to move at full speed when under Attack Orders until the enemy is contacted, and apply additional restrictions to changes of facing while under Defend Orders.

Towns are composed of Sectors (3" square), each of which can hold up to three stands per player. Units can only move one sector per turn, and an enemy-held sector prohibits movement on all adjacent roads. Stands inside a sector cannot be fired upon from the outside, and can fire only at enemy stands at the moment at which they enter the sector; otherwise, all combat within a sector is Close Combat. The Close Combat Phase continues until only one side has forces in each sector.

Stands outside of any sector but adjacent to one are in the Outskirts. There can only be one stand per side of any sector, and only on sides not adjacent to other sectors. A stand in the outskirts receives cover benefits, and can fire normally (but cannot fire into the sector). A stand in the outskirts prevents the enemy from entering the sector through that side.

EngineersThe scenario designer may allow engineers to have the capacity to conduct engineering tasks, such as laying and clearing mines, entrenching, briding, demolition, and setting up barbed wire or road blocks. The scenario designer can also designate any engineer unit to have flamethrower capacity.
Cross AttachmentThis optional rule allows companies from Fighting Battalions to be attached to other battalions.

There are no rules for air drops, as the designer believes that "…dropping units on a tabletop during a pitched battle is probably better represented by a lower-level game."

The Scenarios

The rulebook also includes three scenarios:

NameDescriptionSpace Required
Attack This
Leningrad, May 1942
The Russian 92nd Tank Brigade must kill or rout the Germans, or inflict damage and exit the far edge of the table within 10 turns. The defenders consist of an infantry battalion reinforced with two anti-tank guns and a light artillery battalion firing in support. 30" x 30"
A Roaring Start
29 June 1941
A meeting engagement one week into the invasion of Russia, as an exploiting German force collides with a Soviet counterattack. The Germans have a panzer battalion and two infantry battalions (partially mounted in halftracks). The Russians have the 92nd Tank Brigade, plus a regiment each of armor and motorized infantry. 60" x 60"
Beginner's Luck
Normany, August 1944
During the breakout from Normandy, an American force must contend with an entrenched German foe. The mostly-green Americans have the 52nd Infantry Regiment, the 120th Tank Battalion, and the 82nd Tank Destroyer Battalion, plus air support. The Germans have a battalion of Pz IVh's (veteran) and the 524th Infantry Regiment, with attached anti-tank and flak guns. Game length is 15 turns. The Americans win by killing or routing two German battalions, or by exiting one battalion off the far table edge. 60" x 60"

The designer also provides a half page of guidance on designing your own scenarios.

The Data

The datacards which come with the rules provide data for 400 "platoon types" belonging to the Italian, French, Russian, British, German and American forces during WWII.

Spearhead's Tables of Organization and Equipment booklet includes information on these formations and their components:

GermanyPanzer Division1940
Motorized Division1940
Panzer Grenadier Division1943
Infantry Division1940-42
Volks Grenadier Division1944
Fallschirmjäger Division1943-45
ItalyArmored Division1940
Motorized Division1941-42
Infantry Division1941
FranceArmored Division1940
Light Mechanized Division
Motorized Division
Infantry Division
Great BritainTank or Armoured Brigade1939-45
Armoured Division1939-40
2 versions
Infantry Division1939-40
Airborne Division1944-45
RussiaIndependent Tank Brigade1941
Tank Division1941
Tank Corps1942
Mechanized Corps1942
Infantry Division1941-42
Cavalry Division1941-42
United StatesHeavy Division1942
Light Armored Division1943-45
Infantry Division1942
Airborne Division1944-45


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