Category Archives: “Rules” Explanations

Explaining stuff that isn’t as obvious as I thought it was when I wrote it.

Combat without Pins

 

Pins and a Stompy Robot.

Pins and a Stompy Robot.

For most of its life, NQM has used pins on the bases of models to show permanent casualties. They have a long pedigree, starting with Jon Sandars’ Sandkrieg. Nevertheless, there are a number of perfectly good reasons why not everyone likes pins, useful though they are:

  • They bite fingers and can be dropped on the floor! I have never trodden on one, and I don’t ask friends to  take their shoes off in the Den for this reason. Not everyone can pin them to the left centre and right on a 50mm wide base, much less a 30mm base.
  • Not everyone wants to stick pins into the nicely sculpted bases of their own toys.
  • Not everyone remembers to reorganise and reduce the pins.
  • If I ever take the game to a public show where children may be in attendance, having a hundred-plus pins on the table is just asking for trouble. It’s all good fun until someone loses an eye!
  • They add to the pre, inter and post-game kit faff.¹

So here is an example of a Corps-level  (CSO) Regimental/brigade attack, with and without pins on base markers.²

With pins

1st attack with pins

1st attack with pins.

Two S3 bases (total of S6) take four casualty markers spreading them evenly across both bases, probably becoming disorganised.

Place casualties with pins

Place casualties with pins.

The two bases reorganise, reducing to two permanent hits spread between the two bases and and moving the casualty markers behind the bases. Both pins go from the right-hand green position to the centre amber position. They begin their second attack with two S2 bases (total S4)

2nd attack with pins

2nd attack with pins.

Without pins

1st attack without pins

1st attack without pins.

Two S3 bases (total of S6) take four casualty markers placing them against one base, which can only carry three. The fourth hit removes the base at the end of the move.

Place casualties without pins

Place casualties without pins.

The remaining base takes a morale check, probably becoming disorganised. The disorganisation marker (not shown) is removed on reorganisation. The base begins its second attack with a strength of S3.

2nd attack without pins

2nd attack without pins.

Note that in both cases the green morale die on the right hand attacking base is reduced from 2 to 1 on reorganisation. If the second attack fails, the regiment is spent and can attack no further  until it is pulled out of the line to reorganise, rest and be brought back up to strength.

 

This mechanism reduces the chances of a formation fighting on as a Zombie Unit when it has accumulated too many hits that have gone unnoticed in the chaos of an attack. There is less kit faff, because the maximum number of casualty markers that a unit can accumulate is three before a base is removed on receipt of the fourth casualty. For the moment, reorganisation removes all casualty markers, which encourages carefully planned attacks with pauses to reorganise.

This should avoid skewing game balance, because previously removing half of casualty markers slowed the degradation of a unit, whereas now, gaining four markers will cause a loss of a base. This should speed up combat resolution to the disadvantage of reckless units, and conserve attacking forces if they manage reorganisation properly.

Footnotes:

  1. Anything that slows a game down because players are fiddling with toys or markers rather than getting on with the game counts as kit faff.
  2. I have concentrated only on the attackers by way of illustration. It is unlikely that a single defending stand would cause four casualties without artillery support.

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NQM Soviet Summer Offensive 1943 (Part 2)

Soviets advance to the attack

“Obergefreiter, are those Ivans?”

To the north of the Steppe Front, the Voronezh Front advanced on a broad frontage through the increasingly hilly country towards the more open region of the DONETS BASIN. Here, as further South, the German line was stretched thinly, and in some depth, concentrated around the obvious axes of advance.

Soviet Summer Offensive 02 VORONEZH

Voronezh Front.

From KURSK, the Reka (River) SEYM lazily winds its way west, joining the River DESNA to the east of CHERNIHIV in the Ukraine. Although the river valley itself forms a meandering flood plain with numerous oxbow lakes, the surrounding countryside is closer and hillier, with low rolling contours and forests. Although there are no major settlements, the countryside is dotted with villages and small towns.

It was here that the commander of 2nd Panzer Army (2PzA), Rudolf Schmidt, dug in his forward infantry divisions, 134ID to the north of the river and 296ID to the south, both from LIII Korps. Facing them were 4o  Army (40A) north of the river and 5 Guards Army (5GdA) to the south.

Bridge blown in the nick of time

Second bridge over the River Seym blown in the nick of time.

At the time of the attack however, Schmidt had been arrested and replaced by General of Infantry Heinrich Clößner, a solid and highly decorated commander. Clöβner still retained command of LIII Korps. Consequently, the army headquarters was in some disarray, as Schmidt’s brother had just been arrested for having sold Enigma secrets to the French in 1940!

StG 2 Stukas on target as JG 52 chases the VVS off.

The Soviets came on in the same old way, chewing through both lead divisions, taking moderate casualties themselves, but not being slowed down overly much.¹

As the first advanced outposts of the German defensive lines were being met, scouts were infiltrating around them to reach the first of the major bridge crossings. The German assault pioneers were quicker though and the bridge was blown in the face of the advancing Soviet scouts. Soon the Soviet pioneers were equally busy throwing prefabricated bridge units and anything else to hand over the tangled wreckage to make the bridges passable.

Pioneers well to the fore with well-rehearsed drills.

Stormoviks from 2VVS added their weight to the corps artillery … with less than impressive results! LuftFlotte 4, JG 52 (2 Bf 109s) and StG 2 (1 Ju 87 D) managed to intercept some of the sorties, mitigating the damage that might otherwise have occurred.

With less than impressive results

Heavy dice doing their job … with less than impressive results!

The depth of the German defences was enough to blunt the momentum of 40A, and 38A took over the lead. 5GdA had been advancing north of the River SEYM at a slower rate, having fewer obvious lines of attack.

The German second defensive line astride the river comprised 56ID  “Schwerter (Swords)” and 112ID and the defensive battles here were as fierce but equally as doomed to failure as the forward divisions. The reserve line lasted longer, as it was bolstered directly with artillery fire and the remnants of the previous two lines that had managed to retreat this far. The second bridge was destroyed.

Luftwaffe sees off the VVS (2)

40A logistic transport pushes forward to maintain momentum in the midst of air attacks.

The Soviets had broken through the main German defensive crust, but had exhausted two armies in the process.  7 Guards Army (7GdA) was still well to the east, having just cleared VORONEZH on a very congested supply route that was currently being asked to support four armies. The game ended with the two main lines having been breached, and the Soviets pushing densely packed columns along the road in an westerly direction.

Div HQ in the front line

An obvious choke point!

Game Notes.

  1. Phil is good at this sort of thing, having been playing for at least twenty years, and probably more. He prefers going round the flank with cavalry though, given a choice.
  2. This battle was fought at Front Scale (FSO), so a Division comprised two or three infantry stands representing regiments, an HQ and a medium artillery stand. Recce and engineers were managed at corp level. You can see antitank guns pretending to be lefH 10.5 artillery pieces.
  3. YesthatPhil took the Soviets and I ‘plumpired’ the Germans. As a point of courtesy, I will always try to give the most interesting side to a guest player. It doesn’t always work, but did on this occasion. Besides, I like a lost cause!
  4. I had been mulling over comments regarding the use of pins from the previous post. It dawned on me that the NQM casualty mechanism and Niel Thomas’s four step reduction are similar in all the important details, (he of One Hour Wargames fame). I tried putting all three casualties onto one stand instead of spreading them around evenly, then removing the stand on receipt of the fourth overload casualty. It works, of course, but importantly it has no overall ratio change of effect on a typical combat and it removes the need to stick pins into the bases of your figures. YesthatPhil has always just laid them on his nicely sculpted bases. After Phil had left, I finished off the north using the ‘no pin’ method, and will try it in the next game.
    • It also has the benefit of removing the need to paint traffic light stripes onto the back of every single base, and will reduce the overall numbers of Dead Freds and his mates that are littering the battlefield.
    • Because all the casualties belong to one stand, it is easier to see the state of a unit. They may be less likely to be left behind.
    • The point at which morale checks are needed are easier to see.
  5. Reorganisation will now remove all casualties on a base. I’ve done a quick number crunch, and the effect is similar enough overall to halving casualties, but with the following benefits:
    • It is quicker to do, with less moving around of markers and pins.
    • It is less likely that ‘zombie units’ will be allowed to exist. A zombie unit is one that is carrying more casualties than is permissible, or  that has gone past the point where it should have taken a morale check. In the past we just reasoned that the units ignored their officers, or were inspired by them, or whatever. Zombies just don’t know when to lie down!

 

 

 

 

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How the NQM CSO Works – a Brief Outline

6th Tank Corps of 1st Tank Army is Halted on the German Main Defensive LineTanks attack an NQM CSO infantry battalion with engineer support

NQM is a set of operational guidelines to fight divisional and corps level battles. A single player can comfortably handle a Corps in the Corps Scale Orbat (CSO) version of the game. In a multi-player game, a Soviet Front or German Army, with all its  assets  can be managed by two or three players. With more than two people, we usually play with an umpire.

NQM DSO Battalion

Back in 2013, the DSO version of the game used a Fighting and a Support base to form a battalion of 5 or 6 strength points (SP). The CSO game uses a single Flames of War sized base of 50 x 30mm of 3SP¹.

Luftwaffe Field Battalion

Luftwaffe Field Battalion

NQM resolves movement simultaneously by player agreement. Defenders can be hidden or laid out on the table. Recce usually engages first to try to find the enemy.

Recce Battalions Advance to Contact (CSO)

Here is the original DSO Recce sequence : The CSO sequence is simpler nowadays and just uses an opposed roll, modified by the relative difference between the quality of opposing troops. So if a veteran regular armoured car squadron rolls 5 against regular infantry 4. It adds +1 (veteran being one level higher than regular) to make 6 and withdraws  to “just out of contact” having spotted two bases of defenders.

I use the following differences (from the point of view of the recce unit) to get the result. Unless destroyed or disorganised, the recce can remain out of contact observing the enemy position :

+3 Enemy main defensive line (MDL) discovered + three bases of defender and inflicts 1SP damage

+2  Enemy MDL + two bases of defending unit discovered

+1  Enemy MDL + one base of defending unit discovered.

0  Forward edge of enemy MDL discovered.

-1  Forward Defensive Line (FDL) of enemy outposts discovered.

-2  FDL of enemy outposts discovered. Recce unit withdraws disorganised.

-3  Recce unit destroyed. Enemy location assumed from initial recce orders

Soviet Rifle Division Recce CompanyThese Recce Markers belong to YesthatPhil, and are much nicer than mine.

More recently, I have begun to show recce and engineers, (both of which hive off small company sized units that have an effect out of proportion to their manpower), as a 3SP base with one or more circular markers that can be independently placed on an area of interest. This allows the unit to have a wider spread. If a hit is placed on a marker, it goes on to the battalion base and the marker is removed.

The attacker main body then begins a firefight, which he must win to close assault the defender. Use Table 12. In a set piece attack, it is a good idea to bombard with Corps artillery first, if you have it, to cause casualties without receiving them (but the defender can use his own artillery in return of course).

The LENINGRAD Front Artillery Masses

The LENINGRAD Front Artillery Masses

If the attacker does not win the firefight initially, he can carry on until he does in subsequent moves. Firefights are usually resolved by battalion. In regimental or brigade attacks, three or four battalions will resolve their firefight together on a single enemy position.

 Only the front rank of infantry battalion stands in contact with the enemy, a second rank of regimental HQ or support stands, and divisional supporting armour and direct fire artillery will usually be engaged in the firefight. Indirect divisional and corps artillery will usually have preceded the firefight, or will be protecting the flanks.

Here is the firefight : Nowadays, I no longer use dice to keep track of ammunition expenditure. Instead, on every score of 1 on the firing dice, one stand will run out of ammunition. I use a logistic marker to show that it needs resupplying². Such stands in the unit will be resupplied when the unit reorganises.

At their break point troops must take a break test, on the close assault table.

Here is the close assault : The attacker close assaults. By every point of close assault he wins, he can push that number of defenders bases out of the position, and take their place. If he loses, he has that number of his own bases pushed out of the position. The attacker can keep going unless he loses a break test, in which case he must pull back and reorganise before he can begin again.

After the firefight, close assault and any defender counterattacks have all finished, both sides will usually attempt to reorganise before continuing. Fighting disorganised is dangerous because you cannot use supporting troops³ not in direct contact with the enemy, and fresh orders cannot be issued to the disorganised subunits.  Logistics are important, because to reorganise a unit, a logistic unit must move into contact with it, you cannot do anything other than defend against an enemy.

Various Div LOG, Div POL, Arty Ammo, Smoke, Pin and Casualty markers. The camels are for my Siberian divisions.

  1. I used to put a die on every base to show ammo. This was tedious in large games and slowed play down. I now only put a die on every HQ to show morale instead, as follows: 5 elite, 4 Veteran, 3 Regular, 2 conscript/militia, 1 Green troops. For every reorganisation, the unit HQ drops one level, limiting the number of times that a unit can withstand, or be thrown into the attack. A unit can fight at zero, but will be disbanded on reorganisation out of the line, or lost if overrun.
  2. Doing it this way means that, in practice, you need fewer markers on the table. If every unit carries a logistic marker around with it and loses it when out of ammo, the table becomes too cluttered with markers.
  3. This includes HQs, mortars, artillery, tanks and aircraft etc.

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Crete Planning Session

Crete First and Second Waves

The first wave of Fallschirmjäger battles for HERAKLION as the second wave approaches

 

The Orbats for Crete  May 1941 are loosely sorted out now. A large number of unresolved questions remain for a game that would keep six players happy. It was time to parade the troops on the table schematically so see what sort of real estate they occupy.

Will W and YesthatPhil came round to help me thrash few things out for a timeline, and to do a dummy run through of the first and second waves attacking one of the three airfields. We had time to run through twice in two hours, so five to six hours should be enough to reach a resolution over three main defended airfields, and three attacking waves.

A Hurricane squadron is ready to scramble as a Blenheim squadron rearms. A hard cover air raid shelter is there to protect the ground crew, but not the vehicles

Phil’s ideas on the use of air power were particularly helpful – the original ideas shown here are his, modified by my imperfect understanding, and desire to fiddle with perfectly good mechanisms. He has form, having run the air umpire side of Tim Gow’s original Megablitz Fall of France some ten years or so ago.

Stage one: Aircraft will be scrambled with operational orders and are shown as are operationally ready with a range of ‘x’ squares. They are shown on a flight stand and are placed somewhere on the area of operations that will give them possibilities for attacking suitable targets. The defending player knows that he needs to defend a number of targets in range with his AA and Fighters.

A Blenheim Bomber Squadron has successfully scrambled from Heraklion Airfield, which is under attack.

Stage two: Radar and spotters on the ground will alert defending fighters when they need to scramble in response to an attack, otherwise they risk being caught on the ground if no early warning structure exists. The defender will scramble his own ready fighters on flight stands in response if he is aware in time, to meet the attack. Fighters without early warning systems may have to scramble in rotation to keep a fighter screen in the air to be able to do this.

Stage three: Combat will take place. Everyone will have operational orders that may look something like this:

Bombers: Bomb (visibly identifiable stationary structure) at (location that can be described as a feature on the ground or by a square centre or corner.

Dive bombers (DB) or fighter bombers (FB): Bomb a stationary square centre or corner,or identifiable troop concentration, vehicle concentration, train, AA or ship. Troops on the ground in slit trenches, or vehicles guns and aircraft in blast shelters or emplacements can count medium cover. Troops only in air raid shelters can count heavy cover.

Fighters: Attack enemy , fighters, dive or fighter bombers, or bombers.

Fighter bombers or fighters: Strafe targets of opportunity on the ground if no other combat has taken place.

 Fighters attacking their first target of choice have a +1 bonus in a contested 1d6 roll, and can attack bombers before they reach their target.

Defending fighters that beat off attacking fighters, who are protecting bombers/FB/DB, can then go on to attack the protected bombers/FB/DB, after the bombers complete their bombing run at a disadvantage of -1 for the defending fighters.

Following combat the aircraft will return to base and land – nose towards their ground support unit or marker to show that they are ready to refuel and rearm.In this position they cannot attempt to scramble until they are refuelled and rearmed.

 

Stage four: Account for refuelling and rearming – fighters , fighter and dive bombers, one turn per point of support unit. Bombers one turn per engine. Thus a three SP ground unit can refuel and rearm 3 fighters or one three-engined bomber per turn.

Stage five: When they are ready, aircraft will sit on the ground away from their support unit, or with the unit at its tail, ready to scramble.

If they are attacked on the ground they can attempt to scramble according to skill level. once successfully scrambled they can fight as normal, except that fighters can only attack bombers AFTER their bombing run, if the airfield is the target.

Green: Never

Trained: Succeeds on 5+

Experienced: Succeeds on 4+

Veteran: Succeeds on 3+

Ace/Elite: Always

Operational Radius from airstrip when airborne:

4 squares – Fighters

5 squares – Fighter bombers and dive bombers.

8 squares – Bombers and transports

10 squares – Recce aircraft

 

 

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Front Scale Orbat (FSO)

NQM German infantry battalion from the author’s collection (RSO) circa 2000

One of the subtleties of NQM is that it is scaleable to play at regimental/brigade level through to Army/front level, a point that is not always picked up by a cursory review. The guidelines, as written in 1985 or thereabouts took a three strength point (SP) stand as a company, scaling up one level of command from Frank Chadwick’s platoon-as-a-basic-combat-unit Command Decision, and using his Europa map. This can be considered to be a Regimental Scale Orbat (RSO) with a battalion being about 12 SPs. Chadwick achieved his three army groups by downscaling (bathtubbing) them to the size of three corps. I liked this approach, but it had problems as originally written with artillery ranges being too long, and the weight of artillery being too light at army group aka corps level. I changed my approach for the first time in game March 1942. Frank describes Command Decision as a tactical game but by bathtubbing, he handles an operational game well.

Soviet Tank Corps Forming up for an attack in Regimental Scale Orbat (RSO) circa 1995

Notwithstanding, the idea was a marked shift away from the idea that the Eastern Front could only be played with towers of cardboard counters on a map, and it still works well.

By upscaling, and halving the strength of a battalion to 6 SPs an NQM player could easily handle a couple of battalions in contact at the same time, i.e. a brigade of 18 or so SPs not counting supporting arms from division, which would bring it to around 24 SPs. At this scale it was still important to distinguish between fighting and support stands to give tactical flavour, so the  Divisional Scale Orbat (DSO) was a bridge between tactical and operational level games.

7 Armd Div Corps Scale Orbat

7 Armoured Division. Corps-Scale Orbat  (CSO) March 2018

The next shift really came with Tim Gow and Bob Cordery developing Megablitz, which took a single unit of variable strength to be a battalion. This is broadly equivalent to the NQM Corps Scale Orbat (CSO), and a single player can comfortably handle a couple of divisions in combat simultaneously i.e. a corps. At this scale, it was no longer important to differentiate the fighting and support elements of a a 3 SP battalion.

The Dancing Cake Tin's DLM based for Megablitz

The Dancing Cake Tin’s DLM based for Megablitz

The Front Scale Orbat (FSO) has been around for some time – ever since the Battle for GIROVKA Bend was played in 2012, although it was not stated as such. It was achieved by bathtubbing a 6SP battalion and calling it a division, ignoring the havoc that this creates with the divisional supporting arms and simply showing them at corps/army level. Formalising the system makes a 12 SP regiment/brigade into a division, so a 3 SP battalion is acting as a regiment/brigade, making a battalion effectively 1 SP.

STALINO on Day 4 of the Battle

STALINO on Day 4 of the Battle for the GIROVKO Bend (FSO)

Ground scale has not been mentioned so far, it being an elastic concept. In setting up the game, I have always looked at the area of operation to be played, scaled it to the available space on the table, then worked backwards to the forces filling the board.

Likewise, time can be elastic. Sometimes an operation of 6-18 moves will cover 1-3 days, weeks or even months. It works for me, and confuses players if I haven’t taken enough time to explain it properly to them. Alamein was played at CSO over a few game days, with two day and one night move per game day.

So the current iteration of a bare bones Front Scale Orbat would look something like this:

NQM FSO Soviet Front with supporting Air Army

NQM FSO Soviet Front with supporting Air Army March 2019

Front HQ with Armour, Logistics, Artillery, Engineers:

HQ SP3, under command Tank Corps¹, 1 or more Super heavy to heavy Artillery SP3², anti-tank heavy or med SP3, Pioneers, Logistic (may be devolved to Armies). Air Army approx 9 A/c (7 to 17 with GKO reserves³

e.g.

  1. Tank Corps: HQ (C3), 2-3 Tk Bdes (F3), Mot Rifle Bde (F3)
NQM FSO Soviet Tank Corps under Front Command

NQM FSO Soviet Tank Corps under Front Command March 2019

  1. Breakthrough Artillery Division (Apr ’43): 122mm/152mm howitzer + tractor (S3), 120mm mortar + tractor (S3), 203mm howitzer + tractor (S3)
  2. Air Army: HQ, 1-5 Po-2, 3 Fighters, 3 IL-2 Stormoviks, up to 5 Reserve fighters, Li-2 Tpt.

Two or more Army HQs with Logistics, Artillery, Engineers:

HQ (C3), under command Divisions/Brigades, 1 or more very heavy to heavy Artillery, anti-tank heavy or medium, Pioneers, Logistic (may be devolved to Corps)

NQM FSO Soviet Army HQ with Artillery AA and Armour under Command

NQM FSO Soviet Army HQ with Artillery AA and Armour under Command March 2019

Each two or more Corps with Logistics, Artillery, Engineers:

HQ (C3), under command Brigades, 1 or more medium to heavy Artillery (S3), anti-tank heavy or med (S3), Pioneers (E3), Logistic (L3)

NQM FSO Soviet Rifle Corps HQ

NQM FSO Soviet Rifle Corps HQ March 2019

Each two or more Divisions:

Div HQ (C3), 2-3Bdes/Regts (F3), 1-2 light or medium Artillery (S3), anti-tank light or med (S3), Pioneer (E1) Logistic (L3) (may be concentrated at Corps)

NQM FSO Soviet Rifle Division

NQM FSO Soviet Rifle Division March 2019

It should be noted that this is schematic – I can fit a front of 12 divisions comfortably onto a 12 x4 square area of the board. The whole setup with squares looks very Napoleonic to my eyes. Fronts typically might cover 240km, which would make a square between 15km -20km, and means that at this scale all ranges are contact with the adjacent square only, or at best, corps, army and front artillery one square behind the lead division.

Nierhorster gives snapshot orbats for certain stages of the war. YesthatPhil has already given thought to this sort of thing with Megablitz squared, and Bob Cordery has a published solo set of Hexblitz (2018).

The reason for pushing the scale upward, is that 1943 saw some very large-scale operations take place. The last time that I fought KURSK in 20mm, it took a whole day. STALINGRAD was soloed over three weeks in bathtubbed DSO – alas before I owned a digital camera. Something more manageable is needed for a weekday evening if I am to finish the Eastern Front in my own lifetime 🙂 .

 

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Tidying the Rules

Following the ALAMEIN Game I have tidied the rules to address some specific “problems” that the players commented on. Take this defended square as an example:

Defended position in contact with three sides of the square but no minefield

Defended position in contact with three sides of the square but no minefield

  1. An attacker may not occupy a square until he has defeated the enemy in that square. He may enter the square if the defender has surrendered and is still occupying the square. Example: The brave Italian battalion is in a defended position that contacts three sides and is the sole occupant of the square. It does not have to decide which edge it is defending as the position covers three sides of the square, and it is in contact with the position. The attackers can bring 2 fighting battalions to bear in close assault against it. It would not matter if one was attacking “from the flank” as the position is almost in all round defence. If one of the battalions had worked its way round to the undefended rear, the attack could go in as a Light versus Light. As it is, the attack is Light versus Medium.

    4th Indian Division Brigade Attack with 2 Battalions Forward

    4th Indian Division Brigade Attack with two Battalions Forward

  2. Close assault may only occur across the boundary line between two squares, by the attacking units on the boundary line. Example: The attacker has gone in on the flank. He does not avoid the defences that cover three sides of the  square, but he does avoid the minefield to the front of the position. The defenders are in contact with the position, which is in contact with three sides of the square. There is only one brigade attack against one regimental defence regardless of the fact that the defenders appear to be lined up against the front of the square and the attackers only appear to be attacking one battalion.

    4th Indian Division Flank Attack against a Colonial Regiment

    4th Indian Division Flank Attack against a Colonial Regiment

  3.  A defender may only defend across a boundary line by being in contact with the boundary line. If the defences that the defender is in contact the boundary line, this suffices. This means that a defender in contact with a corner can defend one to four square edges, and any close assaults from these edges must be resolved as one close assault, with the attacker and defender each choosing where they place their own casualties. A defending unit who’s defences fill the square will count as being in all-round defence. A wise attacker with overwhelming strength may decide that it is easier to win the firefight so comprehensively that he overloads and destroys the defender before close assaulting, because even if he attacks simultaneously from all four sides of the square, there is only one close assault. As a defender, you may only want three sides to be defended if you have to counterattack the position from the rear with armour. It would  be usual to have infantry lanes through your own minefields to the rear, but you must specify this in your plan.

    Colonial Battalion Defends Four Sides of a Square with Minefields

    Colonial Battalion Defends Four Sides of a Square with Minefields

  4. A defender with no remaining strength points may not contest entry to a square. If the defending unit cannot retreat out of the square, it is overrun. A unit may not carry more hits than it can absorb. Any excess causes the unit to be lost.

    50 Division Takes Heavy Casualties but Advances on D+2 to D+3

    50 Division Takes Heavy Casualties but Advances on D+2 to D+3

  5. Any attacker having the temerity to place his unit overlapping the defences or the defending unit has immediately blundered into an ambush and takes hits as if he is a light target, with the defender rolling twice his normal dice. In the example picture above,  the Crusader regiments have not quite blundered into a minefield, but they are crowded and will count as ambushed if fired upon.

    7 Armd Div Advances

    7 Armd Div Advances

  6. Any defender crowding units into a square such that they overlap loses the benefit of the defence and counts as a light target.

    Colonial battalion defends two sides of a square

    Colonial battalion defends two sides of a square

  7. In both the examples above just think of “cocked dice”. If your opponent kindly points your ungentlemanly behaviour out to you, then you have been given a chance to rectify your error. If you cannot not put your own house in order, then you suffer the penalty. The umpire should be vigilant as even the calmest players get carried away in the heat of the moment. I don’t know where to start on Plum Pudding Hill!
    Plum Pudding Hill

    Plum Pudding Hill

    In any circumstance where there is ambiguity, each side may claim the most favourable interpretation to apply to their own side  and must accept the opponent’s interpretation of their own side in return. The umpire will be even-handed in this respect without fear or favour.

I think that if I had started squares from scratch, I would have chosen Tim’s Megablitz 40mm square bases, but there are a lot of 50mm FoW bases out there, and at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter all that much, unless there is a disparity in base size between sides.

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ALAMEIN Operation Lightfoot D Minus 28

Cauldron Between the Minefields on Trento's Position

Cauldron Between the Minefields on Trento’s Position

Some of the WHELKS convened in the Den on Tuesday to bed in some new ALAMEIN house rules for NQM Squared (NQM² or NQMsq). Present were YesthatPhil, Will (Hero of Kursk), and Richard. With each player controlling a division apiece, we were hitting slightly less than 30mins, but more than my planned 20 minutes per move, across the evening from 8 until 1030, when weekday night fatigue took its toll. Port, cheese and olives restored flagging energy.

The game was hectic, with 2nd New Zealand Division breaking into Trento‘s position and evicting them before the regimental HQ put in a spirited counterattack to restore the position. 9th Armoured Brigade then cleared the position again until Littorio counterattacked, leaving the position littered with burning allied and Italian tanks alike.

Littorio Counterattacks

Littorio Counterattacks

Phil managed to take some photos. I only managed some after-action shots. The low-vis pins look much less obtrusive. Taking them off works better than trying to add them.

The elephant in the room though, is scale: Three players managed three divisions, so six will only be able to manage six divisions or so. That means modelling the south, as the action was a little more open and fluid, and Trebian and Phil have already committed to  modelling divisions each. The north was more of a head-on slugging match, so is a little less interesting. Otherwise all the house-rule time and space management parameters seem to work.

Trento and Littorio's Admin Boxes and Artillery Positions

Trento and Littorio’s Admin Boxes and Artillery Positions

NQM Squared Supplement

For ALAMEIN² a unit may expend 2-5 action points (AP)s per turn according to status:

Elite or Veteran, 5. Regular, 4. Conscript, 3. Green 2.

Each stand may shoot once per turn expending no APs. Only indirect artillery is subject to ammunition rules for barrages.

An AP may be moving 1 square (2 squares for Recce, LOG, or Divisional/Corps/Army Commanders) or attacking (close assaulting) once.

The following are the maximum moves permitted to:

Infantry in contact, 1. Infantry out of contact, 2.

Armour in contact, 2. Armour out of contact, 4.

Recce, LOG, and commanders, 6, stopped by coming into contact, but use remainder to “shoot and scoot”.

Example: veteran LOG has 5 actions of which 3 may be double moves totalling 6 squares. Green log has 2 double moves totalling 4 squares.

Defending or attacking units may choose to break off close combat at any stage, subject to having a remaining AP or more to move back one or more squares. They may be pursued and attacked subject to the attacker having enough remaining APs to do so (one to move to remain in combat and one more to continue the attack). Usually the attacker runs out of APs first and the defender escapes.

Reorgnisation takes a whole move out of contact with the enemy. Units receiving fire cannot reorganise.

Supporting units may counterattack into their own squares, or ones that they have just lost, without first winning the firefight.

A maximum of 4 bases can pass through a single minefield gap in a move, subject to their own maximum move. As an example, suppose that a brigade attacking with two battalions up engages in a firefight with a defending battalion, and wins it (does not count as an action). One battalion passes through the gap and close assaults, winning the assault (first action). On the second close assault, another battalion passes through the gap to work round the enemy position (second action), this one is drawn (if the assault had been lost, the attacking battalion would have been pushed back, and the second battalion would continue the assault on the third action). The attack continues (third action) and the defenders are pushed out of the position as a third battalion passes through the gap. Finally the RHQ passes through the gap as its own 4th action leaving the brigade in the enemy square.

Nothing would be different if there had been two or more enemy battalions in the square, except that the close assault would have ground on for longer as the attacker strove to reduce 6 or more SP instead of 3 SP.

A bold attacker may have chosen to ignore the minefield gap and assault through the minefield, taking casualties as he went.

Vehicles passing through unswept ALAMEIN minefields roll a heavy die against themselves to determine casualties. Infantry roll a very light die against themselves. This reflects the preponderance of anti-tank mines in the minefields.

Full marks to anyone who spotted the Pz 38t pretending to be an M13.

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2nd Alamein – NQM Squared – The South

44 Inf Div and 7Armd Div

44 Inf Div and 7Armd Div

Having walked through the northern third of 2nd Alamein to see if the real estate fitted (it did), I worked through the head-to-head infantry attack of 44th Infantry Division against Folgore.

Folgore Defence in Depth

Folgore Defence in Depth

The battle commenced with a divisional barrage that put serious disorganisation of 1/3 onto the dug in division (25pdrs M against dug-in infantry M). The infantry then followed this in, winning the firefight and evicting the first line of defences with 100% disorganisation in the close assault.

Ramke Falschirmjaeger Brigade

Ramke Falschirmjäger Brigade

 

I ruled that, being veteran, Folgore could immediately counterattack with its second line of defence, during the second close assault phase and pull its first line of defence out to reorganise. 44 Div were allowed to do the same in the third close assault phase, ending the turn. In future though, I shall restrict immediate counter attacks in the enemy’s turn to veteran troops.

Pavia and Folgore

Pavia and Folgore

This produced a very satisfying to-and-fro battle that left both sides’ infantry at about 50% casualties, with all artillery ammunition exhausted by the end of 4 rounds of fighting.

Folgore and Ramke from Allied Lines

Folgore and Ramke from Allied Lines

Other rulings were that:

Infantry could not pursue beyond their one square range.

Infantry could attack a diagonal square, but only if they were able to attack it orthogonally from the front or flank without interference from enemy on their own front or flank.

In other words, they could not ignore an enemy to their front in order to concentrate an attack on an enemy to their diagonal front, and they can only do this because the one free diagonal move per game turn that they are allowed places the square they wish to attack in reach.

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NQM Squared – The Main Changes

164th Light Afrika Division

164th Light Afrika Division

There is not that much that needs to be changed to make NQM compatible with squares. Here is the first draft of the main changes. I have not entirely decided how to manage orthogonals yet. Currently:

  1.  All units may translate one diagonal move per turn. For example, infantry moving one square may always take it diagonally if they wish. units must still abide by rules governing entry to or exit from squares.
  2. Defences may sit entirely in one square or on the boundary of two, or four squares, controlling every square they sit in. They may be close assaulted in every square they are in, during the same move. They may receive fire from every unit that chooses to shoot at them from the same square or across a square boundary for longer ranged weapons. Defenders must choose who they are shooting against.
  3. Attackers must first win a firefight to close assault any square that a defender sits in. They must enter the square that the defender is in to do so. Defenders may have more than one line or position of defence in a square. Each line or position must be close assaulted  and defeated to control the square.

MOVEMENT

MOVEMENT RATES

The Advance in Contact/Assault (A) rate is used for attacking troops who break into a position, or fight through an area forcing the defender to withdraw.

The Road March/Rout (R) move rate normally only applies to Echelon or Transport and HQ units on good roads, or anyone fleeing or withdrawing from enemy contact.

Nose to Tail on the ORANIENBAUM Road

Nose to Tail on the ORANIENBAUM Road

The lead fighting elements of a unit move at the Move to Contact (M) rate unless moving non-tactically on roads, in which case they move at the Road March/Rout (R) move rate.

Troops in defences are Static (S)

Happily, these Initials coincide with Tim Gow’s Megablitz “SMART” movement states and are expressed in Squares (but I haven’t felt the need to adopt Tim’s closed decision-making, nice though it is, as defenders can choose to stay or withdraw, unless forced to retire by morale. Defenders are only overrun if the attackers are more mobile e.g tanks or motorised troops overrunning infantry).

MOVEMENT RATES TABLE *

Movement rate Expressed in Squares:

Advance in Contact/Assault (A) – Move to Contact (M) – Road March/Rout (R)

Light Recce: A2 M4 ** R6 ***

Armoured: A2 M3 R5

Motorised A2 M3 R5

Foot: A1 M1 R2

Cavalry/Cycle/Horsedrawn A1 M2 R3

Table 1.

* Further penalize movement for congestion etc.

** Only against Lt Recce, otherwise as for foot or armour

***Also Armour on Tank Transporter units

REAL ESTATE TABLE

Frontages *, Column Depth

Battalion: 1-2Km, 2Km (5cm – 10cm)

Brigade or Regiment: 3-6Km, 9Km (15cm – 30cm, 45cm)

Division: 6-9Km, 12Km (30cm – 45cm, 60cm)

Table 2.

*Use the lower limit in close terrain and the upper limit in open.

Chris Kemp’s Not Quite Mechanised – Umpire guidelines for tabletop operational war games . Copyright 1985-2015

THE RECCE SEQUENCE

RECCE SEQUENCE

To make the recce sequence run even faster in the early part of the game, consider dispensing with the recce’s limit on movement, but only allow them to make ONE recce test per move. If the recce blunders into a hidden defender that it has not reconnoitred, it is ambushed and rolls at -1 to its normal modified score.

This sequence is used for reconnaissance bases or stands (recce) and others coming up against a concealed enemy.

The attacker rolls a Red die, the defender rolls a a Blue die. ROLL THEM BOTH AT ONCE. The recce can elect to look at a position likely to contain enemy, or the defender can shout STOP at a point where the recce is likely to be engaged, with any adjustment being made once the dice result is in the open.

Advancing recce can only look at one area per move. This has the effect of forcing them to adopt a slow low risk advance, or a fast high-risk one. For those who ask, “why does recce not get a bonus?”, their advantage is speed. If you feel they are more skilled than infantry line troops, then upgrade their status accordingly.

Apply the following modifiers:

Elite +2, Veteran +1, Regular 0, conscript/militia -1, Green -2

Compare the scores. The Highest wins.

If the defender wins by:

+1, the attacker may remain in contact,

+2 the attacker withdraws out of contact,

every point over +2 places a pin on the attacker.

If the attacker wins by:

+1, the defender lays out his minefields and outpost line,

+2 his main defensive line as well,

every point over +2 places a pin on the defender.

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NOVOGOROD Mar ’43 – NQM Squared

 

31 Rifle Div in the Attack on a 9 km Frontage

31 Rifle Div in the Attack on a 9 km Frontage

VELIKY NOVOGOROD sits  astride the River Volkhov, at the northern tip of Lake Ilman. The Command decision Hex Grid Europa map runs a straight rail line between LENINGRAD and MOSCOW, and ignores this inconvenient piece of geography to put NOVOGOROD on the rail line.

33 Rifle Div Assaults 126 Inf Div in NOVOGOROD

33 Rifle Div Assaults 126 Inf Div in NOVOGOROD

For this game, finishing the Soviet winter offensive, I put the city and rail lines back where They should be. It was also the first outing of the new squared board, and a chance to see how a Wehrmacht Korps defence in depth fared against a Soviet army of 3 divisions.

30 Inf Div Defend the River Volkhov

30 Inf Div Defend the River Volkhov

To the south, 126 Infantry Division held NOVOGOROD, and to the north, 30 Infantry Division held a line 9 km deep.

 

33 Rifle Div advances on NOVOGOROD

33 Rifle Div advances on NOVOGOROD

32 Rifle Div Moves up to the VolKhov

32 Rifle Div Moves up to the Volkhov

Facing them was 34th Army with 31, 32 and 33 Rifle Divisions. As in Phil’s original game, we used Tim Gow’s Megablitz SMART counters to codify the tactical stance of the two sides, but we retained the NQM table 12 winning the firefight for resolving combat. Phil’s movement table was used.

First Bridgehead over the Volkhov

First Bridgehead over the Volkhov

During the course of the game, 33 Rifle made no progress attempting to break into NOVOGOROD, contenting itself with demonstrating outside. 32 Rifle forced a crossing over the River Volkhov, and broke into the main line of 30 Inf, but was forced to withdraw as a spent force. 31 Rifle was more successful, with one of its regiments finding the northern flank of 30 Inf, and bypassing it.

Hier ist die Luftwaffe!

Hier ist die Luftwaffe!

The Luftwaffe  was more active than over LENINGRAD, and succeeded in driving off Sturmovik regiments and inflicting some damage on one of the river crossings, but failing to destroy either.

They Couldn't Hit a Barn Door at this Dist....

They Couldn’t Hit a Barn Door at this Dist….

The month ended with NOVOGOROD surrounded but the Wehrmacht falling back in relatively good order until the Rasputitsa halted all movement in the north for a month.

High Water Mark

High Water Mark

Post Game Ideas that were Discussed:

  1. Allow attacks from troops that share a square edge in common, but not corners.
  2. Ranged support troops (artillery, AA) can be further back.
  3. Air assets can be placed on airfields or baseline at the start of the game. They must roll an appropriate number to activate a sortie (or perhaps get the first one free), then return to base and reactivate when they reach an appropriate score – perhaps reducing the number by one on each subsequent attempt, perhaps not..
  4. Recce and Engineers show hits on their main (E3) or (R3) stand, but the markers can show where the actual effort is going in.
  5. Defences need to be shown in a fairly abstract manner

 

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