A simulation of small unit combat during the Second World War
Based on a belief that wars are fought and won at the level of individual men and machines trying to capture the next hedgerow, the designers of Battalions In Crisis! set out to design a game that would capture the small-unit WWII experience on a tabletop.
Units are typically broken down into tank squadrons (about 6 tanks) and infantry squads (10 or so infantry stands; or 3 stands, if using the suggested microarmor basing system). With 1-minute turns and a scale of 1 cm = 10 meters, the game is very definitely tactical – the rules suggest that a reinforced battalion is about the limit to the size of force which can be practically played. (If you want to play larger battles, switch to a less-tactical set of rules.)
The Game System
At the start of play, one side is designated the "attacker," and the other side is the "defender." These roles alternate, so that on even turns the same player is always the attacker, and on odd turns the other player is the attacker.
The turn sequence consists of these steps:
|Attacker moves infantry and cavalry||A 3-minute limit is suggested.|
|Defender moves all units||A 6-minute limit is suggested. Stands which do not move may declare they are providing covering fire.|
|Attacker moves vehicles||A 3-minute limit is suggested. Stands which have not moved at all may declare covering fire.|
|Artillery fire occurs||Fire must have been plotted in a previous turn. Stands in the target area may take cover before results occur, but if they do so, they cannot attack in this turn.|
|Direct fire occurs||All fire is simultaneous, except that stands which reveal themselves this turn (through firing) can only be targeted by stands designated as providing covering fire.|
|Morale checks||Morale checks are made for individual tanks and infantry squads. In general, units must check morale if they have taken casualties or if they have seen a friendly unit suffer an adverse result.|
|Plot artillery||Players request artillery missions now, but won't receive these missions for several turns.|
For movement purposes, terrain is classified into 9 types, and each vehicle has a movement rating for each class of terrain. For instance, the U.S. M4A1 Sherman can move 66 cm. on a paved road or a firm and smooth surface; 46 cm. on "firm but rough" terrain; and only 26 cm. in mud, deep snow, or a plowed field. By contrast, a running infantryman can move 26 cm on a paved road, but walks a mere 6 cm. in deep snow (running provides no bonus in deep snow).
In a typical game, no stands begin play on the tabletop. Figures reveal themselves by coming into line of sight of an enemy ("reconnaissance by observation"), or by opening fire ("reconnaissance by fire"). Observation depends on the observer's status (being stationary helps; being a buttoned-up tank hurts) and the target unit's condition (20 possibilities, from "moving vehicle in the open" to "camouflaged foxhole in the brush"). For each combination of circumstances, an Observation Range is given – if the target is within that range, it is spotted by observation. Stands revealed only by reconnaissance of fire can be fired upon, but with a penalty to the attacker's die roll.
Units which fail their morale checks may suffer a variety of insults, the worst of which is immediate surrender to the enemy. Units may also suffer one of three forms of retreat (rout, fighting retreat, and fall back), or simply be forced to halt in place. Crews which fail their morale may abandon their vehicles. On the other hand, units which spectacularly succeed at their morale check gain a temporary morale bonus; units previously classified as fanatic may become berserk and charge the enemy.
Rules are provided for a number of special situations, including: river crossings, paratroop and glider assaults, amphibious landings, minefields, constructing fieldworks, demolitions, and the use of structures in combat.
All combat in the game revolves around making a to hit roll with a 20-sided die. The attacker must roll equal or less than a to-hit number. The target number is determined by taking the base number for that type of attack, and adding modifiers due to the circumstances of the attack.
There are four types of fighting in BIC: melee, small arms, tank fire, and artillery.
Melee combat occurs between infantry stands in contact with one another. On the turn of contact, either stand may also make a normal small-arms attack if eligible. During melee, involved stands make their "to hit" rolls. The base number is +2 (first turn) or +7 (subsequent turns), modified by weapon, attacker's movement and position, and defender's situation.
EXAMPLE: A Russian on the first turn of melee would have a base number of +2, which might be modified by weapon (rifle and bayonet, +7), by the attacker's movement this turn (running, +5), and by his position (above his enemy, +4), for a final to-hit number of 2+7+5+4 = 18.
In small-arms combat, the base to-hit number is +12. Modifiers include range, movement of the target, cover, weapon type, and how long the target was visible during the turn. Automatic weapons may attack any number of targets within their path of fire, starting with the nearest target; they receive a bonus which is divided by the number of targets being attacked.
EXAMPLE: A German runs around the corner of a building, and collides with a Russian soldier. His base to-hit is +12, modified by running (-10), target moving normally (-3), target only visible for half of turn (-4), and the German has a submachinegun (automatic fire bonus of +16 against one target, or +8 against two targets), for a final to-hit number of 12-10-3-4+16 = +11. If the German fails to kill his enemy, he'll be in melee combat next.
Direct fire is very similar to small-arms combat, except that the modifiers are different. The base to-hit of +12 can be affected by range, target type, type of shell, visibility, movement, and by consecutive fire.
EXAMPLE: A STUG III 142 fires from ambush as a Soviet BT-7 runs past. The base to-hit is +12, modified by target type (tank, +1), visible for less than half the turn (-4), at short range (-1), target moving (-4), for a final attack number of 12+1-4-1-4 = +4.
Artillery fire has a base to-hit of +5, modified by consecutive fire, observer status, and condition of the battery. If the attacker misses his to-hit roll, the artillery overlays are used to determine where the mission lands. The artillery templates show the area affected by the blast – all stands in the area are injured, but only those at the center suffer a direct hit.
EXAMPLE: During a spirited Italian defense, they call up defensive fire against the British. The base to-hit is +5, observer is trained (+5) and in a prepared defensive position (+4) but under fire (-2), for a final to-hit of 5 + 5 + 4 - 2 = 12. If the fire had been based on map coordinate rather than pre-registered fire, there would have been a -4 penalty; similarly, there is also a -3 penalty for batteries that have been in position less than 24 hours.
Infantry which suffer a successful to-hit roll become casualties. Soft targets hit by tank or artillery fire are destroyed. Armored vehicles, however, may suffer a variety of damage.
First, the attacker must determine precisely where his shot struck the target. Each vehicle can receive fire in one of five zones: full face (front, flank, or rear) and glancing shot (front quarter or rear quarter). The attacker then rolls a die and consults the appropriate column on the Strike Location Table.
There are eleven hit locations – hull (glacis upper and lower, flank, rear, top, and suspension) and turret (front, flank, rear, top, and turret ring). The individual tank data sheets list armor values for each location. Armor values are modified depending if the shot was full face, glancing, and/or falling. Credit is also given for added armor (i.e. sandbags and spare tracks).
EXAMPLE: A French Hotchkiss 39 is struck by a German shell from the front quarter. A roll on the Strike Location Table says the shot hits the upper glacis. The Hotchkiss upper glacis has a basic armor thickness of 30 (sloped at 30 degrees), but is effectively worth 67 in this case (the front quarter shot counts as glancing fire).
The Strike Location Table also indicates whether the attacker might have hit his target in a vulnerable location. Vulnerable locations include main-gun barrels and machine guns, hatches and periscopes, engine grates, the turret ring, and the tracks.
EXAMPLE: The glancing front quarter shot does qualify the attacker for a possible vulnerable hit. He rolls a 17, which results in no special result.
In order to penetrate the armor thickness, the attacker must come up with a penetration value greater than the armor value. Penetration is listed for each gun type, and is strictly a matter of range.
EXAMPLE: The German shell was fired by a 75mm anti-tank gun, which has a penetration value of 88 at medium range (79-89 cm). The French tank's armor has been penetrated.
When a tank is penetrated, the attacker rolls once more – this time, against the Armored Vehicle Damage Evaluation Table. The roll is modified by weapon type. The target vehicle might suffer no damage, the affected compartment might be knocked out for a variable number of turns, or the tank might catch fire and explode. Hits on the engine compartment automatically immobilize the tank.
In addition, a roll is made to determine crew casualties (unless the engine compartment was hit, in which case there are no crew casualties unless the tank explodes). There is a 50% chance that one or more of the crew will become casualties.
EXAMPLE: The anti-tank gun was 75mm firing armor-piercing rounds (a +3 modifier to the roll). The attacker rolls 5 + 3 = 8. The Hotchkiss tank receives no damage! However, the attacker now makes the crew casualty roll – he rolls a 13, which turns both tank crewmen into casualties. The French tank is out of action for this battle, though it could be re-crewed in the future.
The preceding examples may give the impression that BIC is a complex game. This is not the case. The combat system seems natural, in the sense that it is easy to learn and remember.
The Data Sheets
The data sheets in the original game cover 1939-1942 (the supplements provide data for the rest of WWII). Information is provided for France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the USA.
The sheets for Armored Fighting Vehicles provide armor thickness per hit location, penetration values for the main guns, and movement rates per each terrain type. Other information includes crew size, turret rotation per turn, and whether the vehicle can use light bridges. Ammunition loads for tanks are provided, broken down by ammo type. Useful information repeated from the rulebook include the Vulnerable Locations information and the Strike Angle Determination chart.
Unlike the diversity of armor types, infantry weapons come in several generic varieties. There are six types of gun (from pistol to heavy machinegun), 4 types of grenade/explosive, a generic small mortar and flamethrower, plus stats for bazooka, panzerfaust, panzerschreck, and PIAT.
Several scenarios are provided with the game. Each includes briefings for the opposing players (or teams), notes for the umpire, a map to fit a 5' x 9' table, and a description of the battle's historical outcome. The designers have striven to provide historical scenarios, rather than balanced encounters.
|Tank Action Outside Tobruk, May 1942|
|A British tank squadron sets out to deal with a supposed German reconnaissance-in-force. Learning scenario involving tanks only.|
|The Destruction of El Sordo's Band, Spain 1938|
|In the Spanish Civil War, a Nationalist cavalry squadron is hot on the heels of a Republican band. A good scenario for learning how to use infantry (and cavalry) in the game.|
|A Night on Edson's Ridge, September 1942|
|On Guadalcanal, Company C of the 1st Marine Raider Battalion is positioned in the jungle west of Edson's Ridge. They are about to be assaulted by several waves of fanatic Japanese naval troops. Scenario introduces players to artillery fire.|
|The Battle for Stonne, May 1940|
|During the Battle for France, a reinforced company from the Grossdeutschland Regiment must guard the southern flank against a counterattack by a French mixed regiment. Introduces players to air support.|
|Along the Smolensk Road, July 1941|
|This German reinforced motorized company is part of the invasion of Russia. As it advances at dawn, it is about to collide with the remnants of a Russian battalion.|
The game provides few rules for generating new scenarios – for instance, organization charts for WWII combat formations (other than those in the scenarios) are not provided. However, a detailed chart allows one to assign morale values to any unit, based on a number of factors.
Module I: 1943
This 62-page supplement contains new data sheets for the weapons and vehicles of 1943, in addition to five new scenarios.
The 50 pages of data include information for 45 new vehicles, plus other weapons. Germany, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the USA are all represented. Most of the weapons made their combat debut in 1943 (such as the German Nashorn and American M18 Hellcat), but all of the vehicles were active in 1943 (including the Panzer IIIG Flamethrower, available from 41-43).
Also on the useful weapons list is a generic anti-tank rifle.
The scenarios are:
|Night Action on the Faid-Sbeitla Road, February 1943|
|A night encounter between an advancing, victorious German column and a desperate impromptu gaggle of American defenders.|
|Blocking Action on the Road to Gela, July 1943|
|An Italian motorized infantry company counterattacks during the Allied landings on Sicily. American paratroops must gather themselves together and organize a defensive position. The Italians are using captured French armor.|
|The Assault on Syrtsevo, July 1943|
|During the Battle of Kursk, a German battle group assaults the Russian defensive line.|
|Salerno Beachhead, September 1943|
|An American Regimental Combat Team must make a second attempt to take a tobacco factory on a strategic rise. A German battalion is on the defense.|
|Tarawa, November 1943|
|Two American battalions are ashore on Tarawa, but just barely. They must cross the sea wall and assault the Japanese bunker system.|
Module II: 1943-45
This supplement is similar to Module I, except that it covers the 1944-1945 period. The 62-page product includes 40 pages of data sheets, plus new rules and scenarios.
New data is provided for the USA, Great Britain, Germany and the USSR. Among the weapon systems covered are 37 new vehicles, most of them entering service in the 1943-1944 time period (two variants of the Soviet T70 light tank served from 1942-1945). Convenient new platoon rosters are provided for the four major combatants, with squad organizations already filled out. A few new infantry weapons have been added (such as carbines), and anti-tank weapons and mortars are now included on the rosters.
The new rules cover spaced armor, high-velocity weapons at long range, rockets, and multi-barreled weapons. A new system now allows players to construct balanced scenarios based on points.
The new scenarios are:
|North End of the Neder Rijn Bridge, September 1944|
|British paratroops must hold out in Arnhem until reinforcements break through. A nearby German recon unit is ordered to recapture the bridge at Arnhem.|
|The Battle for Marvie, December 1944|
|American light infantrymen must halt a German advance during the Battle of the Bulge.|
|Armored Banzai Charge on Peleliu, September 1944|
|A Japanese counterattack force attempts to drive the American invaders back into the sea.|
|Village Clearing Operation, 1944|
|During the Drive Across France, an American reinforced platoon must clear German defenders from a small French town.|
|Russian Blitzkrieg, 1944|
|Strong Russian forces have broken through the front lines, and the Germans must make a fighting withdrawal. A Soviet combined arms battalion comes up against two German kampfgruppen.|