Thursday, 6 December 2018

The Road to Berlin: Command and Control and Troop Quality


These two factors more than any others, led me to write these rules. Much as I enjoyed Rapid Fire - and I did, neither of these considerations bear heavily on them. Basically I wanted a card-driven set of rules that would allow me to reflect and vary the levels of command and control ability of the two forces and where troop quality would not just be a question of +1 for elite and -1 for militia. They also had to be both playable and fun.

Firstly, command and control. This is reflected at several different levels. At the top of the list is the card deck itself. Its composition is right at the heart of the game. Better armies, that is to say armies that are better led, not necessarily composed of better troops, will have a better deck. This comes out in such things as more command and control cards, fewer lull cards and so on. Secondly is the overall army rating; this reflects the quality of the staff work as well as the experience of the higher commanders. At the start of each phase, both sides throw a d6 to see who gains the initiative - this can be very important at certain stages of the battle. To this roll is added a modifier - anything from 0 to +5. So for example on the Eastern Front in 1941, the German force might have a modified rating of anything from +3 to +5, whereas the Soviet rating is likely to be at best +1. This ensures that the Germans will win the initiative on the majority of occasions. The initiative can be used or given/forced on the enemy should you choose to do so. When a Lull card is drawn,  this command initiative test is repeated: if the phasing side wins, then the only damage is a wasted card. If it loses, then the other side immediately draws an additional card from its own deck and acts on it. Again, if one side has a higher command rating than the enemy, then this will increase its chances of winning on its own Lull card and avoiding further problems, or winning on an enemy Lull card and drawing an additional, free card of its own. See the Lull card definition in my earlier post.

Each unit (usually battalion sized) also has a command rating: good, average or poor. When a unit wishes to move, the better the rating, the more "actions" they are likely to get. It varies between 0 and 3, with 2 being fairly average. An action allows the unit to move the "base move" of its particular type, for example infantry move 4" per action, whilst most tracked vehicles move 8". The better led a unit, the more movement it usually gets. There are a few modifiers, but leadership quality is the main driver here.

Armies are also allotted command groups as part of their unit structures. All will have brigade/ regimental and battalion HQ groups. Armies that are more de-centralised, such as the Germans, British and Americans will also have 2 figure company command groups. These are very useful as they can spot for integral artillery and mortars, making these assets much more flexible. The Soviets only get command groups at battalion level and above, so their options for directing supporting fire are much more limited, neatly reflecting their more centralised and generally less flexible approach. It also makes it more likely that Soviet guns and mortars will need to use direct (line of sight) fire.

Secondly, troop quality. I wanted to have a system that was fairly flexible. Rather than troops just being good, bad or indifferent, I wanted to be able to represent troops with varying characteristics, such as reluctant veterans or enthusiastic new boys. I therefore decided to give each troop type three different factors. These are:

Training: Troops are either green, trained, experienced or veteran. This is normally used when they are being fired at - green troops being easier to hit than troops that are better trained and more experienced in battle.

Motivation. Troops are rated as being either reluctant, confident or determined. This manifests itself when asking units to recover from suppression or to do something above and beyond the call of duty. Reluctant troops for example are less effective in close assault.

Morale. All troop types have a morale rating, usually between 6 (appalling) and 10 (excellent). Very rarely a rating of 11 can be given to reflect fanaticism.

This allows a wide range of options. For example, the Hitler Jugend in Normandy would be Experienced/Determined/11 - although most of the soldiers had not previously seen action, they had a leadership cadre of veterans and were well and thoroughly trained, hence the experienced, rather than trained rating. The same unit in the Ardennes six months later would be rated as Experienced/ Confident/9. A late war British infantry unit might be rated as Experienced or even Veteran, but with a reluctant motivation rating, making them a little "sticky" in combat. The permutations are, if not endless, then at least quite wide. In action you might find that many of the cobbled together late war German units will do a job for you if you put them in a good defensive position, but will struggle to deliver a strong, co-ordinated attack across open ground.

All in all this has worked well. We have found that superior troops can and do defeat equal numbers of poorer types, even when they are in good defensive positions. Troops with a "reluctant" motivation level really struggle to remove suppression, resulting in slow and uncoordinated attacks.

Anyway, there we have it. Hopefully this brief overview has explained one or two things about how the rules work and the thinking behind them. Next up will be movement.

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