"Great Battles puts you in the general's chair where deployment and activation of forces, weather, supply, recovery and reinforcements, artillery and air support are more important than the penetrating power of a shell or the armour thickness of a turret."
– Drop Zone introduction
This description covers The Canadians in Europe, Drop Zone and Invasion '40, all of which use the Great Battles of World War II rules system.
The basic unit in Great Battles is the infantry or armour company, represented by a single stand. Infantry stands are rated for primary weapon (normal or SMG) and transport status (foot, motor, halftrack). Armour companies have ratings for weapon (Light, Medium, Heavy, Super Heavy), armor (Light, Medium, Heavy, Super Heavy), and speed (slow, medium, fast, wheeled).
EXAMPLE: The M4 Sherman is rated as medium gun, medium armor, medium speed, while the Tiger II has a super-heavy gun, super-heavy armour, and slow speed.
Besides the standard combat companies, there are also support assets:
| HQ Stand|
|Provides command and morale bonuses|
|Heavy Weapons Stand||Adds optional firing bonus to all infantry stands in the battalion|
|Anti-tank Stand||Gives a melee bonus as well as anti-tank support|
|Field Gun Stand||Light field guns|
A battalion consists of several combat companies, and may have support assets attached.
EXAMPLE: In Drop Zone's Arnhem (Market Garden) scenario, the 10th battalion of the British 4th Parachute Brigade consists of 3 SMG infantry stands. There are no attachments.
Battalions are grouped into battlegroups, which are generally of regimental size (nomenclature varies among the armies). A battlegroup typically consists of 3 battalions, plus anti-tank and tank units, and an HQ stand.
EXAMPLE: At Arnhem, the British 4th Parachute Brigade – a battlegroup – consists of the 10th, 11th, and 156th battalions, plus an HQ stand and a heavy weapons stand.
Battlegroups are formed into Divisions (sometimes termed armies or corps in the scenarios). Most divisions have two high-level stands:
| C Ops|
(Center of Operations)
|Represents the commanding general, his staff, and communications officers. Movement limited to "friendly" roads. Provides morale and replacement bonuses to nearby units. Cannot be targeted, but can be overrun.|
(Forming Up Place)
|Location from which reserves deploy. Must be able to trace line of supply to function. Immobile by day, but moves to C Ops' location during Night Turn. Can be represented on the tabletop by a stand "...containing supply boxes, fuel barrels, transport trucks, security gates, supply tents, etc."|
In addition, scenarios may specify division-level assets, such as support assets or "extra" battalions.
EXAMPLE: At Arnhem, the British First Airborne Division consists of two battlegroups (1st and 4th Parachute Brigades), C Ops and FUP, a recon battalion, and the divisional artillery (three light field gun stands).
Artillery. Except for the light field guns, artillery is not represented as stands on the tabletop. Instead, the scenarios rate each side for quality of artillery, number of artillery templates, number of rounds received per day, and maximum number of rounds.
EXAMPLE: At Arnhem, the British have "average" artillery, 2 templates, 30 maximum rounds, no replacements.
Morale. All stands have Morale ratings, usually issued on a divisional basis, but sometimes the scenarios provide scores for individual battalions. The range is Raw, Inexperienced, Average, Experienced, Veteran.
EXAMPLE: At Arnhem, the British First Airborne Division is rated as Veteran.
Hidden Units. At the start of a scenario, all units are hidden (off-tabletop) until they move, fire, or are spotted.
Sequence of a Day
Generally, each scenario lasts for a number of days. Each day consists of:
|Dawn Turn||Artillery is allocated. Units can be activated. Initiative determined.|
| ||The number of turns per day depends on the time of year.|
|Night Turn||FUP moves up. Suppressed stands recover. Reinforcement rolls are made. Units may withdraw to reserve (including attached stands), and units in reserve may change attachments. All units can change formation. Artillery is resupplied.|
Initiative. One side is designated by the scenario as the Attacker. He may choose to move first (a decision which applies to all following Day Turns), or to pass. If he passes, the Defender may opt to move first in all following Day Turns, or to pass (in which case, the next Day Turn is skipped, and the option goes back to the Attacker).
Activation. A battalion cannot move towards a nearby, known enemy unless that battalion has been activated. Each side has a limited number of activation points, specified by scenario (Drop Zone uses a random, card-based point generation system). At one time, a player can only activate 1 battalion, or 1-3 battlegroups.
Units can also be activated during Day Turns, but the point cost is greater than activating them during the Dawn Turn.
EXAMPLE: During a Dawn Turn at Arnhem, let's say the British player wants to activate the 10th and 11th battalions so they can advance closer to known enemy positions. He can't activate two individual battalions at the same time, so he has to activate the entire 4th Parachute Brigade – paying 2 points to activate that battlegroup.
Artillery Allocation. On his sketch map, the player indicates where he wants his artillery templates (1" circles) to be placed. Templates can be stacked. Rounds are then assigned to each template.
There are three kinds of barrages:
|Pre-Planned||Target and time are set during the Dawn Turn. No line-of-sight required.|
| ||Target is determined during the Dawn Turn. A unit must spot for the attack, and there is a delay factor before the barrage occurs.|
|On-Call||Mission can be called at any time, a unit must spot, and a greater barrage delay applies.|
Reinforcements. The ability of a unit to replace its losses is dependent chiefly upon its supply situation. Isolated units recover nothing. Non-isolated units have a supply status determined by the scenario (Poor, Inferior, Average, Superior, Superb). The presence of a C Ops stand aids in receiving reinforcements, but even better is to be in reserve.
EXAMPLE: At Arnhem, the 10th Battalion has lost two SMG stands and would like to recover them. According to the rules of this scenario, the supply state is Superior if the British control the territory around their Supply Area (we'll assume they do, for this example). Let's also say that the hard-hit 10th Battalion has been pulled back into reserve.
The odds are good: the British player must roll a 7 or less on a d10. Rolling for each company, he scores "2" and "9" – good enough to recover the first of the stands.
Reserves. Units in the reserves are considered to be resting and regrouping, "miles behind the front lines represented on the game table..."
During the Night Turn, any unit can be withdrawn to the reserves. Also during the Night Turn, armour companies and support assets can be attached and detached among reserve units (but must remain within their original battlegroup).
During the Dawn Turn, units can be deployed from the reserve, arriving either at a friendly table edge or near the FUP. Units must make a deployment roll if they deploy near enemy units, and may suffer casualties or suppressions. Units can also deploy during any Day Turn, but must spend one Action to do so.
Each player performs the following steps during his portion of each Day Turn:
|Deploy units from reserve|
|Move Artillery Templates|
|Resolve Artillery Fire|
|Make Action Rolls|
|Resolve Close Combat|
|Perform Morale Tests|
Resolving Artillery Fire. Given the scale of the rules, the designers felt that "drift" rules would be inappropriate. Any infantry, armor, or anti-tank stands (friendly or enemy) caught even partially under an artillery template suffer the results of the attack. A dieroll is made for each stand, with a result of either "no effect" or "suppression."
A stand under an artillery template cannot make fire attacks. Stands which enter an already-placed template must make a suppression roll.
Air-to-ground Support is treated similarly to artillery. The side which has air superiority is assigned a number of air missions. They are resolved as artillery, except that air attacks only affect a single target stand.
Close Combat. At the start of the Close Combat Phase, all battalions in contact must resolve combat. Close combat is handled on a battalion basis – if any stand from a battalion is in contact, then the entire battalion is presumed to be involved in the combat.
To resolve the battle, both sides roll a d10. Different modifiers apply depending on whether the combat involves armour, but includes bonuses for higher morale, outnumbering the opponent, terrain, and weapons involved. The side with the lowest modified dieroll loses the fight.
The losing side must make Rally Rolls for all stands, resulting in some stands being suppressed or eliminated. The battalion then retreats. The victor has the option of making an advance.
EXAMPLE: At Arnhem, let's say that the British 10th Battalion engages in close combat with the 16th SS Training Battalion. 10th Battalion has 3 SMG stands, and is Veteran (10). The 16th SS Training Battalion has 2 motor infantry stands (dismounted), is Inferior (7), but has the advantage of occupying Oosterbeek ("hard cover").
The British modifiers are: +3 (higher morale), +1 (extra stand), +2 (SMG battalion), -3 (attacking 2+ stands in hard cover). Final modifier - +3
The German modifiers are: +0. (No modifiers apply.)
Both players roll. The British scores a "4," which is modified +3 to a "7." The German rolls a "4" as well, and has no modifiers. The British win.
Suppression and Morale. Suppression occurs as the result of combat (artillery, direct fire, or close combat). A suppressed stand has a movement penalty, cannot fire, and doesn't count in close combat. Additional suppression results usually have no effect.
Rally Rolls are made by the loser in close combat, or by stands attempting to recover from Suppression. The Rally Number is set by the unit's Morale, modified by terrain, presence of a command stand, and the number of stands suppressed or eliminated in the battalion.
A unit which succeeds at a Rally Roll when attempting to Rally, becomes unsuppressed. A unit which fails a Rally Roll after close combat becomes suppressed – unless already suppressed, in which case it is eliminated.
EXAMPLE: Continuing the previous example, the German player must make Rally Rolls for each of his stands following his close combat loss.
His target number is 7 (Inferior), modified +2 for being in hard cover. He rolls "7" and "10," so one of his stands becomes Suppressed.
Next, the SS troops retreat 3", and the British player opts to advance 1" into Oosterbeek.
Morale Checks are made at the end of each player's portion of the Day Turn, for every battalion (friendly or enemy) which suffered a loss or suppression and didn't win a close combat this player-turn.
The difficulty of the dieroll is determined by the size of the battalion at the start of the day, and the casualties (losses and current suppressions) suffered that day. Modifiers apply due to terrain, presence of C Ops, and weather.
A battalion which fails its Morale Test goes to ground, retreating 3." It can no longer become activated today; if it was already active, it becomes deactivated.
EXAMPLE: Still continuing the previous example, the 16th SS Training Battalion took a suppression and did not win its close combat, so it must undergo a Morale Test at the end of the player-turn.
The battalion started with 2 stands, and has only 1 Casualty Point (for 1 suppression), so the target number is 83%. However, there is a modifier of -20% (they are still in Oosterbeek, which is "hard cover"), so the final chance is 103%. In other words, the 16th SS Training Battalion has no chance of failing this Morale Test (they aren't hurt enough yet).
(If both stands had been suppressed, the modified odds would have fallen to a mere 37% chance of succeeding at the test.)
Actions and Action Rolls
Actions are at the heart of the Day Turn sequence.
During the "Make Action Rolls" phase, each phasing battalion determines how many Actions it may conduct this turn - 0, 1, or 2, based on its Morale and a dieroll. In addition, C Ops may also roll for Action Points.
Then, during the "Conduct Actions" phase, battalions may spend their Action Points in order to perform Actions. No unit can conduct a second action until all eligible units have taken their first actions.
The possible Actions are:
In some cases, all stands in a battalion must be involved in the same Action (such as Change Formation). In other cases, stands can each conduct different Actions (i.e., one might Rally, and another Fire).
In addition, units which deploy from reserve or conduct opportunity fire, even though those events don't occur during the Action Phase, must pay Action Points for those previous Actions at this time.
Formations and Movement. A battalion is either in March (column), Defensive (line), or Assault (two ranks) formation. Only stands at the front of the formation are eligible to fire. A battalion must be in March formation in order to benefit from road movement rates.
When a battalion changes formation, its front and center stands remain stationary, while the other stands rearrange themselves into the new pattern. Facing may also be altered at this time.
Armour and anti-tank stands attached to infantry have the option of unattaching (not the same as detaching, by the way) and operating independently of the main formation.
A stand's movement rate is determined by its transportation type, formation, and terrain ("good going," "bad going," dirt road, or paved road). A mounted infantry unit can dismount at any time, but loses its transports for the duration of that day.
Limbering. Heavy weapons and gun stands are considered to automatically unlimber when they become involved in combat. However, unlimbered stands suffer a movement penalty until they re-limber, which requires an Action.
Direct Fire. All stands fire independently (except for heavy weapons stands, which instead offer optional bonuses to all other infantry stands in the battalion). Stands can fire in all directions, but suffer a penalty for firing outside of their forward arc.
A stand must establish Line of Sight to its target. Visibility rules limit sighting, due to distance, terrain, weather, and time of day. Stands under an artillery template cannot be fired upon, not can stands in close combat.
Each attack is resolved by correlating the stand's weapon type and the range to the target, then rolling the die. Modifiers apply due to terrain, formation, firing arc, target's activation status, and using the heavy weapons bonus.
If a hit is scored, a Damage Roll is made. Range is cross-referenced with target type to reveal a target number. If the dieroll succeeds, the target is destroyed; otherwise, it is suppressed.
EXAMPLE: Let's say that the British 10th Battalion continues its pursuit of the 16th SS Training Battalion, spending an Action to come within sighting range (1") within the town of Oosterbeek. The British now use a second action point to conduct a Firing Action.
We'll also assume that the British battalion is in Defensive formation (maximum firepower, slowest movement – but fast enough to catch up with the 16th SS, in this case). With all three SMG stands in line, and visibility at 1", only two stands have Line of Sight to fire – one at each of the SS stands.
Firing with SMGs at a range of 1" gives a "to hit" number of 6. However, there's a -2 modifier, since the 16th SS is not activated, giving a final "to hit" of 4.
For the first stand's attack, the British player rolls "3" – a hit! At 1", firing at dismounted infantry, he needs a "6" to destroy the target stand. He rolls a "10" and fails. The SS stand is merely suppressed (again, in this case).
For the second stand's attack, the numbers are identical. The British player rolls a "1" (a hit!) and a "3" (eliminating the enemy stand).
It is very likely that the 16th SS Training Battalion will fail morale this turn…
Indirect Fire. Infantry stands have the ability to conduct attacks without requiring Line of Sight, but at reduced effect. Such attacks reflect the use of mortars and other integral indirect weapons.