Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Getting the hang of it.

Objective:  Operation Saturn on 3rd Romanian Army Front;
November, 1942.  'Jacko' has the eight infantry and 1 armoured
Division, but has just begun assembling his cavalry.
Over the last three weeks, Jacko (real name, Paul) and I have been meeting once a week to get on with painting, basing, modelling our WW2 armies.  I am building up my Russians; Jacko has been putting together a Romanian army.  Or should I say 'Army' - specifically the Third.

In this connection we have been investigating the 'Not Quite Mechanised' system (?) pioneered by Chris Kemp.  I down loaded and printed a copy of his rules  umpire's guidelines some time ago, but last night we thought to have a go at some of its mechanics.

Some weeks ago we tried a Soviet battalion storming a dug in Romanian one.  The Russians inflicted one hit in the first round of the firefight - and received nine in return (two of the defenders' hit dice were sixes).  We figured that was a handy repulse resulting in the complete destruction of the Soviet battalion.

Well, last night, it was not easy going.  To begin with, we (I) wanted to test out the combat mechanics to get a feel for how the action went.  So, we set up a set piece attack.  Now, as we are aiming towards Army level action, we have followed Mr Kemp's alternate system in which the NQM units count as Divisions, rather than battalions.
Soviet Army Corps with tanks and heavy mortars in support
attacks a single Romanian battalion with medium mortars in support.
Sorry about the mediocre photography.  
However, the first pass assumed the standard NQM scales.  A Russian Rifle Brigade of 3 battalions attacked a single Romanian battalion dug in .  The Russian Divisions were supported at Corps level by a couple of units of heavy mortars (120mm); the Romanians by a single unit of mediums (8cm). We assumed for the purpose of this exercise that (a) all the preliminary approach marches and reconnaissance had been carried out, and (b) the Soviet prepared mortar bombardment would go for the one approach move, and one move of firefight, and then stop.  The Romanian mortar would begin at the same time as the Russian, and throughout the firefight.  Maybe counter-battery by the Russians would have been legitimate, but after a brief discussion, let that pass by.
'Ourrah!  Ourrah pobieda!'
For a view from the other side of the fence, see

We certainly did a few things wrong, judging by a reread of page 5!  The Soviets never did succeed in pressing home the attack to a close assault!  They equalled the Romanian shooting in both rounds, and ended up taking twelve hits all up, whilst the Romanians were destroyed.  We knew something wasn't quite right.  But I find that it the way to get the hang of a rule set.  Suck it and see.  Then read over at leisure to see what you did wrong.
Soviet Rifle Divisions have taken losses serious enough to
disorganize them and stop them pressing home their attack.  The
armour, nothing loth, surges on.

Finally we tried an 'Army Level' game.  The battalions became Divisions.  The Soviets also got a Tank Brigade.  The Orbats were;

Red Army Corps (all Regular)

1 Tank Brigade (1xT34 CF3)
3 Rifle Divisions each with:
       [3 rifle bases (F3), 1 command/SMG base (CF1), 1 MMG base (S1), 1 PTRD base (S1)]
2 Mortar Regiments in direct support each with:
Having successfully driven in to the Rumanian position,
the Soviet armour is summarily thrown back out again. 
       1x120mm mortar (S3) (there ought to have been at least one FOO as well)

 Romanians (Regular)

1 Rifle Division with:
       3 rifle bases (F3), 1 command rifle base (CF1), 2 support bases (1xMMG 1x ATR = S2).
1 Mortar regiment in direct support (S3).

The Romanians have seen off two Rifle Divisions and a Tank
Brigade.  Maybe the 3rd Soviet Rifle Division can
carry the position.

Now, given the scale of the game, I assumed (rightly or wrongly) that the ground scale is correspondingly reduced, from 40cm to the kilometer to 4 cm to the kilometre.  I suggested that the firefight 'zone' be placed at 3cm - overscale, to be sure, but with a clear separation between forces. The time scale would be correspondingly changed as well, leaving the 'on table' movement rates the same. 

The Soviets went in with a leading wave of two Rifle Divisions, 1st Div on the right, 2nd Div on the left, and the Tank Brigade in the centre.  Second Division at once took 3 hits from the Romanian supporting mortars (ouch) as they entered the 'firefight' range.  I assigned the hits to 2 'F' bases and 1 'S' base
The repulsed units fall back to reorganize.  Each of the three
units loses a base or strength point.  If you prefer:
the infantry have been reduced to about 80% strength;
the tanks to less than 70%
Now, here is where we made certain assumptions that appear to be wrong.  Having taken 50% hits, 2nd Div became disorganized, and probably ought at once to have bugged out.  I supposed that, though it could not press home an attack, it could at least carry on a firefight in support of the remaining units. On top of that it seems a morale check might have been in order. In the firefight zone, all Russian units fired.  We weren't sure whether the tank represented just one 'CU - combat unit' for the vehicle, or 3 - one for each strength point (SP).  That question cropped up in the close assault phase as well.  I supposed that as a 'base' represented a single SP on an infantry stand, then 1 SP represented a base.  But we had been rolling a single die for each of the SP3 mortars.  Which was it to be?

Well, the first round of the firefight did not go well for the Russians.  First Division took 3 hits incoming, disorganizing that unit, but the Tank brigade remained unscathed.  But the Romanians were taking some knocks as well.  In the next round of firefight, the Russians did a little better, but only the tank could close assault.
During the firefight phases, the Russians inflict 4 hits - enough
to destroy the defenders outright.  But their losses are enough
also to disorganize the Russians.

Tank terror having been shrugged off successfully (I think we ignored it for the purposes of this 'play test') the Romanians were pushed back by the Soviet armour, but remained in the fight.  One problem we encountered at this point was what constitutes a 'win' for the attackers. Possibly now was a good time for the Romanians to take a morale roll (maybe they did at that, I don't positively recall, now).  Be that as it may, the battle continued.  Again I gave the tank 3 dice for its 3 strength points, and the Romanians had enough still in hand for their two dice.  And I rolled diddly squat, and he rolled 2 hits.

Back went the armour, and the rest of the first wave, to reorganize and generally feel sorry for themselves.  In went the reserve Division, the 3rd.  Well, that didn't go so well, neither.  The delay between the repulse of the first wave and the advance of the second gave time (we supposed) for the Romanians to spend a move themselves reorganizing.  The 'black' pins we substituted simply by removing stands.  Having taken some knocks in the earlier fighting, the Romanians had just 2 stands remaining.  

Ample, of course.  The Soviets were fortunate in entering the firefight zone with just the one hit, but they never got any further.  They might have progressed, for they won the firefight, inflicting 4 hits against 3.  The Romanian defence was thus eliminated (but for the mortar regiment some kilometers to the rear.  But the three hits were enough to disorganise the Russians.  Could they occupy the position now bereft of defenders?  

End of the battle: mutual exhaustion.  The Romanians
have been worn down to nothing; the last Soviet
Division in a state of disorganization.
Considering the odds, and the defenders were only dug in, not fortified, they inflicted almost as many hits upon the Russians as they took themselves.  But there seems to be no 'reorganization for a destroyed unit, and the Russians ended up losing a base from each of the 1st and 2nd Divisions, and two from the third.  The two  hits (red counters) on the Tank Brigade became one (blue counter) representing its reduction to 2 strength points.  

Several questions were raised by this simple 'play test'.
1.  Do morale tests take place only in the context of close assaults?
1A.  Are morale tests applicable in fire fights?
2.  Can attacking units continue a firefight whilst disorganized, or must they at once retire to reorganize?
2A. Must attacking units break off a firefight once disorganized? (Note: it is clear they must break off a close assault).
3.  What constitutes 'contact (with the enemy)'?  I have assumed it to be 'within infantry firefight range', but can think of a whole swodge of other possibilities ranging from reaching harassing fire range to close assault.
What I am proposing to do it formalise Chris Kemp's 'guidelines' into something a little easier to use without unpire mediation.  That is why, in terms of the 'standard' NQM system, I have translated nominal distances and speeds into table-top terms.  For instance, taking the ground scale at 1:2500, that means 40cm represents a kilometre, and I have taken 1 turn to represent 1 hour.  Using my own conversion method (described in this blog some years ago), 1 kph is (approximately) represented by a 50mm game move.

I've done the same by tabulating weapons ranges as follows:
Maximum Effective Range
Maximum Harassing Range
Infantry small arms
300m -> 120mm
1 km -> 400mm
Infantry anti-tank
200m -> 80mm
Light anti-tank guns
500m -> 200mm
1 km -> 400mm
Medium anti-tank guns
1000m -> 400mm
2 km -> 800mm
Heavy any-tank guns
2000m -> 800mm
3 km -> 1200mm (1.2m)
Up to 47mm tank guns
300m -> 120mm
600m -> 240mm
48-76.2mm tank guns
500m -> 200mm
1 km -> 400mm

3-inch mortar
1.5 km -> 600mm
80-82 mm mortar
3 km -> 1200mm
120mm mortar
5 km -> 2000mm
Infantry guns (75-76.2 mm)

Field artillery

Light (105mm- 120mm} artillery
15km -> 6000mm
Medium (150+mm) artillery
18km -> 7200mm
Heavy (200+mm) artillery
20km -> 8000mm

The gap I have left to be filled by heavier anti-tank weapons - differentiating between short, medium, long and extra long 75/76/77mm guns: the long 85/88/90mm guns and extra-long 88: and the 100mm, 122mm and 128mm tank guns.  I have also added rows for infantry guns and field artillery. Though I am conscious that infantry guns were battalion inventories as a rule, heavier infantry guns (15cm) were more regimental, but in small numbers.  To represent the 6x15cm infantry guns of the 352nd Division (two per rifle battalion) at Normandy, for example, you would have to treat them as a Divisional asset (S1).  I'd consider doing the same with the infantry guns (total 14 for the Division, so S1 again - or group all the infantry guns into S2).  That would leave the battalions with something like this: 3 rifle bases (F1), 1 MMG base (S1), 1 mortar base (S1) and 1 panzerfaust base (F1). I'm not sure which of the latter 3 ought to incorporate the command base.

What about the ranges for these weapons in the 'Army level' game?  Chris Kemp calls this a scaling 'by three' but it's really a scaling by nine, or ten, where 1 battalion under 'standard' NQM becomes a Division of nine battalions (say) under the Army level game.  In the above article, the ground scale was reduced by a factor of ten, which meat a reduction in time scale by a factor of 3.  Of course a 12mm range for small arms (We are using your old school plastic kit armies, here) is much too finicky, so I have suggested a 3cm 'fire-fight range' or 'zone'  to the front at least of a given unit, and possibly all round.  I'll have a look at how the other weapons work with this Army level ground scale. We may have to look at 'scale by three' after all!

Quite a bit of work in progress here - much to think about.  Meanwhile, the other day I got a call from Tony concerning a 75th anniversary El Alamein war game.  What have I in my 8th Army inventory? Not a huge amount, as it happens... just bits and pieces.  I do have 8 Airfix Vickers MMGs though .


  1. Have you considered Megablitz? If you are looking at divisions, corps & army level...
    I've looked at NQM but think they are too "fussy" for the level aimed at. Higher you get the more abstract it must become.
    Alternatively, Bloody Big Battles BBB has a play test ww2 version. Contact Bob Mackenzie or join Yahoo group. Sam Mustafa is bringing out Rommel and Frank Chadwick is working on a set High Command. All are aimed at higher level WW2.

    1. I certainly have considered Megablitz, and I found your other suggestions strangely interesting as well. I think I might somewhere have heard of Bob Mackenzie's BBB project. I'll look into it.

      The Standard NQM strikes me as about half a command level above Command decision. The ground scale for CD is 1:1800; for NQM about 1:2500. A Russian rifle battalion comprises anything from 6 (very poorly equipped) to 14 (well equipped) stands. For NQM, we're looking at 5 or 6 'bases'.

      I do like Command Decision, but am looking for something a little simpler and able to be played on a small playing surface.

  2. I used to play CD but it became too much like hard work. FC's new project sounds very interesting; stands are btns/regts/brigades a division being something like 6+ stands. It sounds somewhere between a board game and VnB.
    Hints on the CD TOB forum:

    The latter has info on Bob's BBB WW2.