Saturday, February 20, 2016

Revisions and edits.

+Erik McGrath

Been awhile but I'm still plugging away.

The main thing I've been doing, as the title suggests, is revising existing ideas. The main thrust has been ease of play.

I have one basic principle of game design: use as few rules systems as you can, but no fewer.

This means I'm ok with complexity that adds value but I want to make it all happen with the same basic process. In BotG that means everything is based on rolling D12s for the acting player hoping for low numbers and then the same process for the reacting player.

The Problem

A big thing I really want included is persistent effects. When you have an MG suppressing an area I want that to matter all the time so there will be a marker on the table showing the affected zone. Artillery barrages work the same. They don't just come and then stop for the movement phase but continue throughout the turn where they will certainly weigh on the decisions of the players.

In the first iteration I bent thick copper wire (so they could be left in place and worked around) to make templates for things to show their beaten zones. It was effective but it was a bit cumbersome since I'm using a linear ground scale rather than the telescoping distance many wargames have. So an 80mm mortar in this method has a 12" template. But more than just the individual templates being large at times it also means each type of weapon had its own one.

LMG, MMG, HMG, grenades, lt mortar, med. mortar, hvy mortar, light howitzer, 75mm tank guns, 88mm tank guns... and on and on. It was way too many but I couldn't bring myself to conflate more than a few of the types.

I did try. First I made all MGs use the same template and tried giving MMG and HMGs multiple templates and eventually just letting them be moved to show their effects. Neither was very satisfying.  That worked better with explosives since you could just flip it to show who was covered.

But moving them was fighting against the idea of persistence.

The Solution


Yup. All the templates are gone from the playing surface. I still have them but they don't clutter up the table anymore. 

Instead I'm churning out tokens marked with their nationality and the weapon. A black cross on grey for Germans,  a white star on green for US, a red circle on white for Japan. Their airplane markings basically. 

Each token is paired so there are two German tokens that each say 'HMG1' with arrows on the bottoms. To use them you place one on the target and one on the shooter and then point the arrows at each other. So far its surprisingly easy to keep track of everything this way. 

And of course its much less clutter and much less effort to make a bunch of tokens for each weapon than it is to make templates.

In Play

The tokens do tend to add up but its easy to see when one is near enough to influence your decisions once you get down the basics.

MG: These cut a long swath across the field. The template is just a 2' long rod. One end goes on the target token and the other extends in the direction of the shooter. That is the area the gun can threaten without changing targets. So its king of holding roads and open spaces. Crossing the line is a bad plan and even getting close stops infantry in the same way that coming up to the edge of a minefield does.

Artillery: Each type of artillery has a killzone where you have a chance of being injured regardless of cover. After that anyone without sufficient cover suffers a suppression attack based on the incoming shells but anyone with cover is safe. There's no range limit but what counts as sufficient cover gets easier with distance. For mortars every 6" away improves cover while for howitzers its 12". This is to represent fragmentation and the simple fact that men go to ground when shells start falling nearby.

Wrap Up

All in all I think this is a good direction since it does what I want without being too cumbersome. it also goes along nicely with the topic of my next post: firepower.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Close Quarters Battle

+Erik McGrath

Last time mentioned my three exceptions to the 'all fire is suppressive' rule: Snipers, ambushes and assaults. Today I want to talk about the latter.

Close Assault

Boots on the Ground takes place in a 1"=4yds ground scale using 1/72 scale infantry and vehicles. This is a 1:2 distance to model size scale chosen to make the typical game a 200x300yd area. At this scale the majority of the game is spent exchanging fire and the attacking side maneuvering to seize their objectives. Since the maximum speed of dismounted infantry is 12"/turn and they rarely get to move that fast its usually 4 turns before they are in position for the final assault. 

I say the final assault because its very rare that there is a close assault conducted before the climax of the game due to the fact that they are so decisive that its not normally possible for the loser to recover in time. When there is more than one its because there are several being launched at once to take multiple locations or its a desperate last stand by an isolated unit to hold the attacking force back. In one case it was a failed attack that didn't completely break the attacker and reinforcements joined the next turn to end things. 

So even though its a small part of the time spent at the table it gets its own phase in the turn sequence. The majority of the game doesn't use it but I find its helpful to have it there on the summary sheet so that its kept in mind.

The way I've been looking at it an assault comes in several stages. First there's the set-up where the attacker gets into position, then comes the pre-assault softening up where the attacker tries to pin the target. Once the enemy is suppressed below the risk threshold of the attacker they make the charge then conduct the action. 


This part starts from turn 1 as the attacker moves across the board toward the objective. In any scenario where there are defenders dug in on or covering an objective its likely that they will need to be fought in close combat to dislodge them. BotG is set after the artillery falls silent with only mortars and the occasional howitzer or aircraft intruding on the duel of men and tank. Because of the short, tactical nature of the game the enemy won't be destroyed by stand-off firepower. 

Sure, AFVs and infantry guns cause damage and casualties but rarely enough to force the enemy to abandon an important position. In any game where this has been the case its due to massed firepower against one of several objectives so even then there are other points that need to be fought for tooth and nail.

Moving your infantry is a trade off between speed and safety. The faster they go, the more vulnerable they are. This is true if they are hoofing it or hitching a ride, especially if they are in lightly armored or soft transport.

On foot infantry can move 4" on their turn and 2" on the opponent's turn in relative safety by using tactical movement. They can up this to 8"/2" (its always no more than 2" for reactive movement) by rushing. If they have some hard cover this is also pretty safe. Going all out is 12"/2" and unless they are hidden from view is a pretty hairy option since it abandons the use of incidental and low cover entirely.

In a transport they can easily cover 12"+ each turn but since vehicles are large targets and packing them full of infantry makes them very tempting targets you can be assured anything with range will be shooting at them. An emplaced MG has been the doom of many unprotected riders whether its jeeps, M3s or on the back of a tank.

Soften the Target

In a way this part is pretty simple. You pick a target and then you pummel it with as much firepower as you can. On turn 1 you might not have everything in place to prep the target so this step can blend with the set-up step as you both move your assault force into position and move your fire support into place as well.

Naturally while you are doing this your opponent will do their utmost to prevent you from doing so. By using firepower defensively to deny certain lanes of attack and suppress key support or maneuver units the enemy can at least force you to divert your firepower toward the goal of silencing their support.

Due to the ground scale in BotG only the shortest range small arms ever have to worry about being out of range. At 300yards in scale a rifle can easily reach out and touch the enemy provided they can be seen. For support weapons this is point blank range with the only real defense being visibility impairments and luck. Even a 37mm AT gun can kill most things at this range.

Clear the Objective

The culmination of all your hard work is when you finally launch the assault itself. Or at least, when you attempt it. Rushing into close combat isn't something most soldiers want to do, especially those with limited training or personal initiative. So in order to do so there needs to be a leader present.

The leader then makes a command test and if passed everyone withing their command radius gets up and goes. If you have multiple leaders and the chosen one fails you may keep trying until you run out of leaders to issue the order but leaders who fail stay behind. Don;t worry though, if the set-up has gone well you should have plenty of bonuses to the roll.

Assuming a leader passes the test everyone else gets to make a morale test to charge in. This is a standard morale test so you get a disruption counter if you fail but you also determine how far the model moves as well. A success allows the model to charge up to 4" and then fight in the firefight and hand to hand subphases. A failure allows the model to follow up to 2" and fight in the firefight subphase only. Even if an enemy counter-charges into base contact on those who passed the morale test can fight in that phase.

On a crit the model charges the full 4" and rallies one friendly as usual (remove a disruption counter from any model with an equal or lower Morale rating) and a fumble means not only does the model gain 2 disruption counters but they don't follow along and don't fight in either subphase. If this takes them over their broken threshold they make a casualty test as normal. 

After the attacking force finishes moving the defending force follows a similar process. First the leader tries to rally the men. If this succeeds then the men check morale to see if they counter-charge, hold fast or flee. On a success they may counter charge up to 2" and fight in both the firefight and hand to hand subphases, on a fail they stay put and participate only in firefight subphase. On a crit you may use the rally effect to shift one friendly's result one row upward (fail to success, fumble to fail). 

On a fumble the model makes a flee move away from the assault and fights in neither phase. They make a casualty test as normal and if they pass they can still become a casualty as a result of the assault but they do not fight in either phase. Keep in mind that this action inflicts 3 disruption counters (1 for failing, 1 for fumbling and a 3rd for the flee move) and defenders in an assault often already have disruption counters so chances are this will be an automatic removal. 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

All fire is suppressive fire.

+Erik McGrath

With the old man nursing a pretty nasty broken leg we're getting back down to basics. Small games meant to test specific rules and copious arguing about edge cases and how to implement them.
A Sherman  using a stand of trees
to hide from enemy StGs.
There's one in both those visible ruins. 

We keep coming back to a couple things and after reworking them a dozen times I'm confident enough in the solution to talk about it in public.

Foremost among these repeat offenders are LOS, vehicles and what makes a model a legitimate target.

Observation and Engaging the Enemy

Before you can shoot the enemy you have to be able to see them. From the player's eye view of the models on the tabletop you can see everything and generally don't think about what the troops below would be able to see. Even in a second story like Herr Leutnant to the right its hard to pick things out and that doesn't even get into the fact that the tabletop is a relatively featureless, abstract representation of the battlefield.

Real terrain, even land we think of as flat, is rarely open and level unless its manmade. There are dips, rises, scattered shrubs and uneven grass. An infantryman lying prone is only about a foot tall in profile so it doesn't take much to get good lateral cover.

German lieutenant overseeing the battle
 from a second story ruin.
If you strain you can see the Sherman
above in the trees at the top right.
Rather than coming up with an ASL's worth of edge cases and specific rules the current iteration is to treat all fire as suppressive fire with three exceptions: ambush, close as
sault and sniper attacks.

An ambush for our purposes is a specific situation that has only occurred due to scenario set-up conditions. It must be executed by a unit deploying by pop-up deployment against a target that is not in a combat posture. This could be a unit walking down a road or on guard duty but not one that is simply moving in the open. Being out of cover is not required, guards are often behind sandbags or barriers but if they have not yet joined the battle they can be ambushed.

Snipers are basically conducting an ambush whenever they attack. The enemy is often aware of nearby enemy in this case but due to the sniper's preparations this criterion is waived. To conduct a sniper attack the shooter must be emplaced and in good-order. To choose a specific target they need to pass an observation test otherwise the reacting player may nominate any valid target for the attack. Fumbling an observation test doesn't negate the attack but it does downgrade the action back to a suppressive fire attack.

Eye-level view to show how hard
it is to actually see the enemy.
 Close assaults are the base case for a direct fire result since a close  firefight has a tendency to be both target rich and decisive. Once  entered the rest of the game stops until they are resolved.  Sometimes this means the two forces withdraw a short distance but  most of the time one side prevails and either kills or captures the  other completely. The rules don't actually force the second  outcome, its just that we don't order the boys to fix bayonets unless  we have greater numbers and superior position.


Armored vehicles present a challenge in any ruleset. The process of shooting at them is pretty easy since they are basically just structures that can move and shooting rolls can handle that with little work. The difficulty for me comes after the shot. What happens when you hit the target?

In BotG a 'hit' in most cases means a successful suppression attack. For infantry that's easy, you check morale and give out disruption counters to mark how effective the attack was. Mostly this means the enemy is going to be slowed down and their counter-fire will be weaker. On a high level this works just fine for AFVs as well but the devil is in the details.

For the poor, bloody infantry everything flying toward them on the battlefield is deadly. Cover is king, without it there is nothing but luck to keep your boys alive. Softskin vehicles are easy for this reason as well but since they are so much easier to hit than men they are actually much more vulnerable to enemy fire than infantry are.

Armored vehicles though are different. Most of the random projectiles on the battlefield can't harm them at all. Small arms and light mortars are no more than inconvenient to the vehicle but can still keep the crew buttoned up. Its the big guns that trip me up though.

The enemy has 3 StGIIIs.
This Sherman isn't rushing things.
In my wargaming experience what typically happens is that you separate out the act of hitting from damaging when dealing with AFVs. Most things hit about the same whether its a crewed gun, a tank or a bazooka team. After the hit you then need to compare the weapon to the target to see what happens. This can be simple or complex depending on how many factors are considered. Most at least consider the caliber of the weapon, location of the hit and the armor on that location.

My preference is to have One Rule to Rule Them All so as much as possible I want all shooting, regardless of attacker or target to use the same process. So that means I want to make a normal suppressive attack, then a suppressive results roll. If needed we then move on to a wound roll.

Naturally we've done just that and it is pretty satisfying for suppression results. Vehicles have crews so they can gain disruptions just like any other target. Its what happens with a direct hit and the frequency of those hits that is unsatisfying. Just using the suppression table ends up with very few actual hits and thus armor can just drive across the board. Since killing dug-in AT guns by overrunning them was not our preferred outcome there was a great deal of hemming and hawing about how to fix it.

In retrospect the answer is pretty obvious but it took weeks to get to it: treat anti-tank attacks like snipers. So if the attacking unit is emplaced and in good order it gets to make an observation test and then a direct attack if it succeeds. When choosing a target you use the parts of the tank rather than individual people as the choices. A successful observation roll means the attacker hits the desired part (ie whichever option is thinnest) and if failed the reacting player chooses the highest value option.

Cover plays heavily in this choice by limiting the options that can be hit and granting a bonus to the armor roll to avoid a kill. And using the sniper rule not only keeps the number of rules needed down, it answers the questions of when making this special attack is allowed. For AT guns the emplaced requirement is trivial since they can't attack at all unless they are deployed, for infantry AT weapons and vehicles it is a trade-off since they have to stop and emplace themselves which means not maneuvering for at least a turn and then staying put to keep counting as emplaced.

Then they have to be in good order which is easy in the early game but quickly gets harder and harder because the enemy is heavily incentivised to deny you clear shots at his vehicles. It also favors the defender in a scenario since they often don't need move their units so they can start in good positions and exploit them while the attacker's tanks have to move and accept the less effective shooting that comes with this.

Lastly, doing it this was also solved how to handle the rate of fire of a stationary versus a moving unit. Once a stopped shooter can act as a sniper a stationary attack is already much better than a moving one so there is no need to vary the number of attacks.

And that has to be my favorite thing in rules design: solving problems without addressing them directly.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Fighting the enemy.

+Erik McGrath

The core goal of any wargame is to defeat the enemy and Boots on the Ground is no different. What victory means can vary considerably based on the scenario and the objectives the game encourages. For BotG victory means achieving your objectives while denying the enemy theirs. Often these two things are one and the same due to the most common scenarios having objectives that are directly opposed.

A favorite for our playtests is capturing a specific piece of terrain for the attacking force. Bridges, hills, railheads and factories were common in the first tests which were drawn from battles in Western Europe after D-Day. The latest objective was to hold a the seawall in our first Pacific theatre game set on Day 1 of the Battle of Tarawa. The US Marines did manage to hold the wall for the price of 6 men KIA and 11 WIA. The next game will be the second wave and the marines are expected to take the beach up to the dunes.

The other thing all wargames have in common is the two precepts of maneuver and firepower. At the scale of BotG this means the majority of the movement on foot and the bulk of the fire is from man portable weaponry. There are some vehicles used, mostly halftracks and the occasional tank, and we also make use of off-board artillery but due to the distances involved it tends to matter most in the first half of the game to disrupt maneuvering. By the time the assault is under way its simply too close in to use big guns.


Speed is life in any battle. You have to get your troops to where they can actually attack the enemy before you can hope to prevail after all. In BotG that means the attacking force has to get their infantry up close to the enemy so they can assault and push the enemy off their objective. No matter how much artillery you pound the enemy with in the end you only control what you are standing on so riflemen have to take the last few yards.

Like all the other stats of the average infantryman his movement rate is 4. This rating in inches is the tactical speed of the model. This is a cautious pace that hugs available cover while still making progress. At this speed infantry are extremely hard to affect beyond 24" with infantry weapons. If there is hard cover they are effectively immune to enemy fire and in the open, provided its not a man-made surface, they are still very resilient. 

Units can also choose to go faster or slower than this speed in multiples. At half tactical the unit is crawling and scooting as low as they can. They won't go far but it could be enough to get from building to building or across a narrow path. In this state the unit uses the 'go to ground' rule and improves their cover and concealment by one step up to heavy cover and heavy concealment (the levels are light, moderate, heavy, total). 

At double tactical speed the unit is rushing. They are sprinting and diving to cover distance. The advantage of course is distance covered with the trade off being a reduction in concealment (but not cover!). 

After a unit finishes a rush move it may opt to push on and sprint. This allows an additional rush move (8" normally) at the expense of further loss of concealment, reduction of cover (due to more time spent upright) and forcing an Endurance test. Failing this test has all the effects of a failed morale test and uses the same tables. This means units can be disrupted and individuals can even be injured due to sprinting. 

The terrain can also make movement dangerous or impossible. Broken ground increases the chance of disruption or injury by making the test Unlikely (re-roll all successes once) while rushing (or forces one that would otherwise not be needed while moving tactically) while dangerous ground gets its attack improved (whether this is a swift stream, a minefield or an area of suppressive fire the rule is the same). Some terrain simply can't be rushed (marsh, wire) or sprinted (mud, snow) through at all. 

At the end of the active player's movement the opponent conducts reactive fire and at this point targeted units can choose to go to ground. If they do they get the normal advantage of improved defenses but they give up their active fire for that turn. Units that crawl can't go deeper to ground but they can still conduct active fire. 


Shooting attacks are conducted in three phases during each turn. Two belong to the active player and the middle one to the reactive player.

Suppressive Fire

This is the beginning of the active player's turn in many ways. The command phase is first but its mainly administrative. Suppressive fire is when decisions are made. Any unit can make attacks in this phase provided they are not disrupted. Crews need to have a number of disruption counters equal to their members to be disrupted. this can be a combination of broken, disrupted and good order members as only the total number of counters matters for this. Additionally a unit that conducts suppressive fire may not normally move in the active movement phase. An exception to the movement rule exists for vehicles that have separate drivers and gunners but even they have speed restrictions depending on weapons fired.

A unit that has set up an area-fire zone must conduct an attack to maintain the zone. If they choose not to continue or are forced due to losing good order or going to ground then the zone ends immediately. Units maintaining the zone must make attack rolls but normally only a fumble matters. 

Reactive Fire

This phase exists to show that the enemy never stops shooting when they have clear lines of fire and targets. It occurs immediately after active movement and is followed by reactive movement and active fire. 

Just as in the suppressive fire phase all area-fire zones must be maintained or removed in the reactive fire phase as well and doing so normally forbids reactive movement with the same exceptions as above. 

Active Fire

The last fire phase of the turn belongs to the active player and allows all those units that moved a chance to fire and all units that conducted suppressive fire attacks to do so again. Unlike the other phases area-fire zones do not need to roll to be maintained in this phase because they have already done so. Originally we did require maintenance in this phase as well but we decided we could dispense with the extra rolls required to save time without really affecting the game. The main thing is that you roll once per phase in which the opponent has a chance to move so that you can cut off likely avenues. 

Wrap Up

One important thing to keep in mind is that in BotG nearly all attacks are area attacks. When infantry exchange fire they aren't usually shooting a point targets because an aware enemy is taking cover. Only snipers and ambushing troops make direct fire attacks during the shooting phases and both follow the same rule. In effect the sniper's training and optics allow them to always make use of the ambush rules.

Vehicles and anti-vehicular weapons are more likely to make direct fire attacks since the higher profile and more limited cover available to vehicles makes them more vulnerable. But even so a tank isn't likely to expose itself to a known AT gun or approach a position where the infantry have portable, short-range AT weapons. So many direct attacks are due to ambush or the sniper equivalent of anti-tank fire: bore sighting.

Hewing to my philosophy of of minimizing subsystems is that when a target has its concealment reduced to below none by movement any unit shooting at it counts as ambushing. So don't sprint in open ground without first using smoke!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

More on Scale.

+Erik McGrath

Since my last post on scale I've been thinking more and more about it and I've come to some conclusions.

Ground Scale Should Be Strict

Whatever the actual scale is it should be maintained at all times. For a small, personal scale where each side is under or around the size of a company I find a ground scale of 2:1 is satisfying for both movement and shooting.

For the 1:72 scale this means a ground scale of between 1:125 and 1:150 gives a good blend of playability and precision. From a precision standpoint it makes the normal 6'x4' table I play on 300x200 yards which is the same area as 12 football fields, minus endzones.

For playability and look it makes the models and terrain seem larger when compared to the distances involved but not so much that it strains credulity. It does make very close contact a little strange but that is why I have come to my next point.

Time Scale Should Be Flexible

In combat time is mainly about maneuver and firepower. The longer the scale the more firepower influences the forces from turn to turn. Most WW2-era tanks and anti-tank guns could fire from 10-15 rounds per minute and records from that period show that 15 75mm HE rounds is the average amount needed to neutralize a dug-in, crew-served gun. 

So if the time frame is long enough that a gun can sustain fire for a minute each round then casualties will be more significant than if they can only expect 30 seconds. As the time scale increases it gets more and more devastating. 

Now of course this means the rounds are hitting the target so camouflage and terrain can still make a gun that has been detected very difficult to dislodge and that's before you consider that AT guns are much better at killing tanks than vice versa. 

Effects of Strict Ground and Flexible Time

While each factor is vital it is the combination of them that is the most important thing. By keeping distance fixed it allows for close quarters battles to be incredibly decisive affairs. If each inch represents 4 yards (1:144 scale) then being within 2 inches of a target is hand to hand distance since in most cases a person can close that distance in less than a second. With fixed bayonets or similar close fighting weapons that can mean that even if the attacker is shot he could still live long enough to impale his enemy before both succumb to their wounds.

In Boots on the Ground this frenetic engagement is handled with the Close Assault Phase. Most turns will not have one, but if at any time the active player is within 4" of the enemy they may attempt to initiate one. It takes place after the normal exchange of fire in the Active/Reactive Shooting subphases and it immediately leads to a brief exchange of gunfire and grenades and then vicious hand to hand fighting or both. 

All models 2"-4" apart make what I am terming a Firefight attack and then may advance a further 2" toward the enemy. After both forces move all models within 2" of the enemy make a Hand to Hand attack. When those are resolved anyone still standing checks Morale. This can lead to men hesitating, freezing or even routing. If after this happens there are non-broken models on both sides of the fight they remain locked in close quarters battle (CQB) and they stay put throughout the next turn.

If only one side has men in good order (GO) then they win the assault and take the surviving enemy prisoner or execute them depending on the specifics of each force. Berserk units often execute their enemies in the throes of their rage (roll Discipline, success means they do not) while regular line troops almost never do so (roll Discipline, they only kill prisoners on a Fumble). If one side has a particular enmity of the other they use the Unlikely rule on their check so they are much more likely to fail. 

The reason this is left to a Discipline roll and not to the player is because sometimes in war men make the wrong choice despite their orders or their better nature. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

Scale Concerns

+Erik McGrath

Scale is one of those things that makes or breaks a game for me. Both the size of the models and the approximate ground scale have to fall in a pretty narrow range or I'm not going to play it more than a few times and I certainly won't be investing in it.

Then there's the issue of time as well. It does me no good to have everything the right size but then too fast or slow. If a turn is 5 min long then a tank could deplete most if not all of its ammunition in that time period given enough targets.

But once that's all set you don't want to be rolling so many dice that it takes 12 hours to play the game either. I think the sweet spot for game length is 3-4 hours when playing a 'standard' sized game which I usually consider as having 5-10 units per side. Depending on the game scale those units could be companies or single individuals.

Model Scale

The goal here is to use a scale that is large enough to easily handle individually based infantry without them constantly getting knocked around while being as small as they can be so they don't seem to be moving in slow motion across the table.

Originally we went with 25mm and it felt a little big. 15mm was a little too small on the individual infantry metric but looks great in play. The compromise candidate is 1/72 since its basically interchangeable with 20mm.

Ground Scale

There's no way around this issue. The ground scale is always going to be smaller than the model scale if you want to have meaningful ranges for modern weapons. 1/120 is the current winner in this race. It turns my 4'x6' table into a battlefield 160x240yds for a total area of 7.9 acres. It makes 1"=10' which I like because a 2" move is the rough 7yds at which melee combat becomes likely.

Infantry have a base speed of 4" in this system with options to move on the double on their active turn and also to adjust by half speed on the opponent's turn. So despite being more than 1.5x smaller than the model scale it works in play.

Time Scale

I think of time as an emergent property of the other scales rather than a dial that is set on its own. The main reason I look at it this way is because once the movement speed and ground scale are set then you can solve distance = rate x time  and see how long it takes. There is some elasticity in the precise time reached since while the speeds of men and machines are well known there are abstractions of the actual movement.

Infantry don't move in one smooth motion from position to position. They stay low and sprint some portions while diving for cover and waiting for an opening at other times. Even in a heated, close engagement there's a significant amount of nothing going on.

The turn also needs to make time for fire. Firing while moving tends to hit nothing, especially when tanks do it. This means punctuating movements with halts and finding your target. The players of course can see the entire battle but the actual participants have very limited awareness. Without resorting to complicated rules or a referee the only way I've found to handle this is to just abstract it.

To that effect the time scale of this project is loosely defined as a minute to a few minutes for a final, in game, elapsed time of 5-30 minutes.

Unit Scale

Rounding out the scales is the playing piece(s) that get the focus. In this case its in the name of the game: man to man combat.

I've talked about it already in this design diary so it should be no surprise that I'm focused on the individual rifleman as the basis of the rules. But individuals don't fight battles so the smallest maneuvering element is the team.

Teams can be pairs, crews, or half squads under normal circumstances. Under less normal circumstances they can be larger such as full squads or a single soldier who has been cut off or left behind due to circumstances. Vehicles, when they appear, operate individually because in reality they are full crews already.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Keeping Things Simple.

+Erik McGrath

One of my main design principles for this project, perhaps the core idea, is to use as few distinct rules as is practical. This means that when two subsystems are similar the rule that governs each should be the same.

Following this principle has lead me to some interesting places and today I'm going to share them.

Additionally I'm making progress on play aids and though its hard to read you can see the front of the most recently concocted quick reference sheet to the right.

It has the turn sequence listed to speed up subphases and ensure nothing gets missed as well as the most referenced tables in the game: Suppression, Direct Attack and Wound Results along with the common modifiers for terrain and when to apply those modifiers.

Strange Companions

The most striking result of keeping the rules simple is what it has brought together under one heading. And of those the one I like the most is that machineguns and minefields are resolved the same way against any model in their area of effect. In both cases there is an area effect template on the board and any unit wishing to enter it must make a morale test to do so. Any unit already in one that does anything except stay still and under cover rolls on the Suppression Fire Results table. 

The SFR table mainly inflicts disruption counters and shows how its unnerving to be under heavy fire or stuck in a minefield. It can result in wounds on a fumbled roll (usually a 12 on the D12) and that means rolling on the Wounded Results table. Anything but a crit on the WR table means you are wounded with the options being one of: maybe able to fight, out for the game, and KIA.

Of course just because they are resolved the same way doesn't mean they are identical since different modifiers apply to each and they are placed in very different ways and cleared in different ways as well. You can end an MG's suppression zone by having another unit suppress the MG and you can clear a minefield by cautiously picking a path through it. One way that does work on both is artillery. HE is great at clearing ground no matter what is on it.

The Basic Process

Everything that needs to be rolled in BotG is a D12, roll under. This applies to morale, shooting, radio communications and aircraft approaches. Additionally most things have 4 possible results from the roll: critical, success, failure, fumble. 

Critical occurs when a 1 is rolled on the die and after modifers the action would succeed on a 1. If it would not normally succeeds, say because your relevant stat is a 4 and you have a -4 modifier then its still a  success. 

Success is when you roll equal to or under the relevant stat. For most units this is a base rate of 1 in 3 but with modifiers it ranges considerably. Typically attacks are made at a penalty and morale tests at a bonus provided the target is smart enough to stay under cover. For a direct attack a success is a hit or very near miss depending on the wound result. Area attacks almost always scatter even on a success but its usually a small amount.

Failure is rolling over the relevant stat. For a direct fire attack this is normally no effect and you move on. For explosives and other area attacks though its a high degree of scatter instead. Due to the random nature of scatter (roll 2 dice, on a failure use the higher, success uses the lower) it is still possible to hit.

Fumble is when a 12 is rolled on the die and the action after modifiers would fail. If the action would still succeed mathematically then the fumble is downgraded to a failure. This is the worst possible result and when attacked it generally means you have been killed outright. For a weapon that scatters it means that you add both scatter dice together for the distance and the opponent can choose to place the template anywhere up to that distance from the point of impact.