Now this is a nice set of rules.
If you’re not aware of this one, the concept is operational (The Soviet ‘Operational Art’, as quoted - actually, I’ve had Tim Gow’s rulebook since the 90s and only getting around to playing it now! Maybe I’m the one that’s not aware…doh!). The rules may be pretty hard to find now, but the concepts are lovely.
In essence we’re dealing with stands of infantry which represent entire battalions, where 4cm=1km (or half that in 1/300). (…as Bolt Action fans run away screaming…). Tank bases can represent multiples of companies.
So, we’re looking at the sort of level we normally see in Hex’n’Chit wargames. The beauty of this is that I’ve always wanted to do Market Garden on an 8’x5’ table, with 20mm miniatures. Pull up the distance between Eindhoven and Arnhem on google and you’ll see how it fits.
- The SMART orders system (Static, Mobile, Attack, Retreat, Transit). This is the focus of the game and dictates movement, readiness for combat etc. Outguess your opponent and manage your resources. This is what WW2 gaming should really be about.
- Relative strengths dictate all differentiation between units, and degrading strengths are kept hidden from opponents – with them rolling to see how many hits they take from the dice you hand them.
- To this end, Recon elements are used properly, to assess actual strengths, actual orders etc. A lovely fog of war concept, (though the counters I used for strength and orders were too big, and strewn across the table like so much confetti at one stage).
- Logistics (in terms of both supplies and fuel) is critical to protracted battles. If you can’t trace your supply route, and use up the lorries’ supplies appropriately (yes, trucks are really important), you degrade your capability fast (like ZOCs and supply in the old SPI games).
- Combat at the sharp end is close up and personal and protracted – there are no ranges for infantry and vehicles at this level and artillery is on the table (yay). It’s what happening behind the lines that can make a big difference. Don’t get hung up on the fight at the crossroads – support it, withdraw, or look at supply issues that are coming.
- Bombing and air support and the concepts used in blitzkrieg start to work, and key – you understand ‘why’ they worked.
- Here’s a pretentious point. You aren’t managing the battlefield here, you’re managing the ‘battlespace’ (to coin an oft used more modern term). You’re concerned about the front, supporting that front, potential breakthroughs which hit your flank or rear, and supply…oh, like things a real general would worry about you say? Yep.
All that said, we probably didn’t give the rules the outing they require, with no real urban combat (which sucks up supplies likes nobody’s business), and I know we made some mistakes in terms of logistics. That’s no bad thing, as the rules are eminently hackable (in fact the format positively encourages house ‘rulings’).
There are of course some very pertinent links
Tim Gow’s (the author) blog:
Tim Gow’s (the author) blog:
Bob Cordery’s blog – which has some relevant rules hacks (HexBlitz), and has some great development rules concepts. My reason for citing this one is that I have hexes on the gamespace in the pics below, which will of course lend themselves to dictating movement and range etc.for future runs.
The Megablitz website:
Steve’s Balagan blog, with some nice quick reference sheets and rules clarifications and scenarios. Actually it was his Eastern Front version of ‘Dot sur la Mappe’ that we used for the game.
The long road east. Minimum terrain, but at this scale, it's unimportant as range issues are handled very differently.
On board elements, awaiting 16th Panzer, make first moves toward the farm complex..
...as 16th Panzer division make drive toward east.
Recon elements, supported by armour, makes for the left flank, where Soviet units are thought to be.
...in the form of a second JU88 mission.
All in all, this was pretty exciting as a concept, and there are some good hacks of the ideas lurking about the net. A large battle can be fought in a matter of hours, with the important issues of the day being stressed.
Market Garden, Bastogne etc – all eminently do-able with nice 20mm models and good game resource management – just what we like. A modern version, along the lines of Avalon Hill’s ‘Tac Air’ springs to mind, and some larger Vietnam scenarios from ‘Seven Firefights in Vietnam’ are applicable depending on how you adapt the SMART concept for company level etc.
Having had the hexes in place, it also made me think about how I can use them to hack the existing rules, or use a little of the 'Hexblitz' system too, and even parts of Memoir '44.
With hexes, we can see the combat unfold as above - like a Hex'n'Chit game with toys.
Also? Well, I took a leaf out of the Megablitz veteran’s book and put some of the vehicles and infantry on thick bases with a black edge – more reminiscent of large unit markers than pieces in a diorama…oh, they look nice now.
Love those black lines...
More to follow…