This post discusses an easy fast play campaign system, including a fast play set of tactical rules to keep the campaign moving at a good pace.
In issue 58 of Warning Order (free downloadable e-zine), Matt Irsik presented an article with suggestions of how to run a campaign that could be completed in a day. In the following and most recent issue (59) he shared a set of fast play rules, which enable players to cycle through the number of battlefields that will need to be fought over in a single day.
Both articles are an easy read and begged for a closer look, so I set some 10 / 12mm figures up and using measurements in centimetres, ran some manoeuvres on my large pinboard (less than 2’ x 3’), representing the initial battlefield.
There is a link to Matt’s freely downloadable e-magazine and his significant back catalogue in the Resource Section below.
He has a donate button on his front page, each issue is certainly worth gifting him.
For the rest of this post, please use the ‘read more’ tab.
Please note - the comment section for this blog has been turned back on.
The two articles in Matt’s magazine are a good read and fully self explanatory, so rather than me reiterating all of that here, I shall leave the reading of his magazine for your pleasure and simply demo the rules via a very simple situation - I know of at least three followers of this blog who are going to love this set :-).
Above - this is taken from Matt’s first article in issue 58 on how to conduct a campaign. We are seeing an example of a campaign area represented and defined by the various tables that are potential battlefields.
The numbers between each location indicate the number of Tactical Turns that it takes for units to move from one board to the other.
Briefly, the basic administrative unit of time is called the ‘Campaign Turn’. The whole campaign will flow over several of such turns.
Each campaign turn is broken into these three phase;
OPERATIONAL PHASE, which is something of an admin and house keeping phase that encompasses matters effecting the entire campaign area.
TACTICAL PHASE, this is the fighting bit, whatever rules are used, the fight will last for 10 turns only. As the campaign progresses, it may be that more than one board will be currently contested (i.e. have forces from both sides on it), So in essence a 10 turn battle is fought on each of those boards. It may also be the case that during these 10 turns, units move and arrive on a board containing enemy troops and therefore, their bit of battle, over the course of the remaining turns will need to be played out. So for example (use above schematic) if a unit moves from board C to D, that move will consume 5 turns, it will then arrive on board D and have 5 turns of fighting to execute in the Tactical Phase.
The rules provided by Matt are designed to allow the fast play needed to cover so much potential action, so that friends can complete their campaign in a day.
END PHASE, artillery moves strategically from board to board, perhaps to get itself within weapon range or to prevent being overrun etc. Also victory conditions are checked now. Once concluded the next campaign turn starts, with players entering the Operational Phase again …. this is explained much more eloquently in Matt’s article!
Below - this is our battlefield for our trial knock-about game. If you can imagine it sitting in map position H on Matt’s campaign example above, so that the attackers are just starting a limited offensive and will be moving longways down the table (left to right), with a view to exiting the road that will lead to either battlefield F or G.
This would be the first battle in our campaign. The Germans have been occupying the small hamlet as a Brigade outpost with a platoon of regular infantry and they are now dug in. They have a MMG, an artillery spotter, who has access to one mission of on call medium artillery fire and each of the three sections can use panzerfausts.
Nearby (off board, on map F) are a reduced platoon of two panther tanks, which are presently refuelling and taking on more ammo before proceeding to strengthen positions at the hamlet. Refuelling takes 5 turns in the Tactical Phase and then crossing from map F to map H will take 3 turns, so the panthers will not arrive on our battlefield until tactical turn 9 - will that be too late!
The British are probing forwards, testing the enemy defences. Their current orders (which will take more than 1 campaign turn) are to enter table H (from the left hand side) and proceed to the hamlet, secure it and wait for reinforcements to consolidate the hamlet and then advance onto board F and secure the lower bridge.
Their force comprises of two platoons of regular infantry, a MMG and the support of a Sherman tank platoon with four vehicles. Each infantry platoon has one PIAT.
On turn 1 of the tactical turn, the British have a pre-registered bombardment on the hamlet with a fire mission of medium artillery (105mm). They also plan to attack the hamlet with a ground attack airstrike.
The whole point of this snapshot exercise is to describe to the reader the nature of the rules and flow of the campaign - nothing more, so here we go!
This is Campaign Turn number 1.
We start with a four part Operational Phase;
- Allocate air points - The Germans have spent 1 Air Point to get 1 fighter on this board for CAP. The British have allocated 1 Air Point to get 1 ground attack air unit. An air battle is fought now as the British ground attack attempts to get through. The one defending CAP rolls a D6, on a result of 5-6 the British air unit will be shot down. They roll a 3 and so the ground attack unit gets through and will fight in the tactical phase.
- Engineering points - None are spent on this board in this turn. We can assume the Germans did this earlier to dig in. However, the Germans spend 2 Engineering points to put entrenchments onto board F and a further 2 points to also place entrenchments onto board G as they prepare to deepen their defences. These will take a whole campaign turn to become effective.
- Moving artillery - The Germans decide to move some of their Divisional artillery from board A to board C, to get the guns closer to the front line, as an enemy attack is expected. The movement will physically occur during the upcoming End Phase and will be marked on the campaign map, perhaps with a counter.
- Resupply fuel and ammo - This is how the Panthers, who are on board F have been tasked. It will take the first 5 turns during the upcoming Tactical Phase to complete this.
We now move into the Tactical Phase, it will last for 10 turns regardless of whatever rules are being used, but Matt’s fast play rules will help get this all moving at a good pace.
We begin by seeing who gets the initiative for the turn. Sides just roll a D10 and compare, however in our scenario rules, we are giving Tactical Turn 1 initiative automatically to the British, as they are launching a local offensive. Initiative will be tested at the start of each tactical turn, so that sometimes a force will seemingly get a back-to-back turn. This does help mix things up a bit and provides and removes opportunities that keeps things dynamic.
Tactical Turn 1
The British make their pre-registered artillery strike against the hamlet. The artillery blast zone is 8cm x 24 cm and basically covers the two front buildings and hedge line. Most procedures require a D10 to be rolled and this will yield one of three results. In this instance we are rolling for artillery accuracy and will get either miss / good / on target. The British roll 5, the result of ‘Good’ means that every target in the blast zone tests on a D10 using the Medium artillery Vs Infantry in cover column.
The result (click on picture) is that the MMG in the ruin is removed from play - a significant result! Note the two German sections defending forwards at the hedge.
Then the ground attack aircraft moves onto the table and it attacks the hamlet, with a 10cm x 10cm blast zone, targeting the Bakers, but the low roll is a miss.
The loss of the MMG is quite serious for the Germans. Their rifle sections can only fire 8cm, but the MMG has a range of 20cm and was the only weapon the Germans had that could contest the open ground in front of the hamlet. Without that support, the Germans at the hedge bounding the Wheatfield start to pull back towards the hamlet.
The British move onto the table with two rifle platoons and a tank platoon.
Tactical Turn 2
The British infantry advance through the heavy woods is slow going (5cm). The Shermans on the left push forward over open ground.
Tactical Turn 3
The British infantry exit the woods and move out into the open, so pick up speed (8cm). The Shermans have halted so that they can start firing at the buildings. In this system, a unit can either fire or move during a turn, not both.
Again we have the D10 getting one of three possible results miss / hit / destroy. The values for obtaining these change with range. One Sherman fires at 30cm and rolls a 7, which would normally just about be a hit, but the defenders are in cover, so the roll is modified down to a 6, which is a miss.
|The two German sections at the hedge are now in the hamlet|
Tactical Turn 4
|The Shermans pump H.E. into the hamlet|
British infantry edge forwards. 1st Platoon will need to clear the hamlet to protect the tanks from panzerfaust attacks.
Tactical Turn 5
The Panthers on board F have completed refuelling and rearming, they will now move to board H, which will take a further 3 tactical turns before they arrive.
Shermans fire into the hamlet without effect, waiting for 2nd Infantry platoon move to keep up with them.
Tactical Turn 6
The British Vickers MMG halts at the wheatfield hedge line to give fire support to the advancing 1st infantry platoon (on the right).
|The Vickers takes up a firing position.|
Tactical Turn 7
The Shermans fire at the Mayor’s house without success and likewise the Vickers MMG also misses. The Germans are quite lucky, if the British dice were any better, they would be taking morale checks due to high losses.
Tactical Turn 8
All four Shermans are now firing on the Mayor’s House and so it is no surprise that the German section there is knocked out. Now at 50% casualties, the German platoon must take a morale test. Again, the usual thing, a D10 with one of three possible results Good / Wavering / Retreat.
I had already classed the German formation morale as ‘B’ grade, they roll a 6 and (just) pass, getting ‘Good’, so they can carry on.
Tactical Turn 9
The two Panthers arrive on the road on board H, but as they obviously have to move to do this, they cannot fire …... lucky Shermans!
Above - at the Bakers, 1st Infantry platoon with three sections, close assault the building which contains one German rifle section. The British get a total of 3 x D10, one for each rifle section. The Germans get 2 x D10, one for the rifle section and one for defending a building. Both sides roll, sum up their score to a single figure and then compare them as a ratio. This gives the outcome result.
The British score 11, but so do the Germans. The ratio is a 1:1 attack and the chart tells us that this is an “Indecisive fight and we must re-roll”. So we try again. The British score 13, but the Germans only score 6, giving the British a 2:1 win. The chart says “Defenders pushed back 5cm and lose 1 stand”. Since the defenders only had one infantry section, they just simply lose it. The Bakery has fallen into British hands.
Now at 75% casualties, German morale is tested again …… but they still pass, not that it matters as the surviving German infantry section starts to retreat out of the hamlet anyway.
|The German Panther tanks move towards the hamlet|
Tactical Turn 10
The lead Sherman sees the Panthers coming down the lane and gets off a shot. The range is 33cm, so they fire on the 21 - 40cm gun column and will deduct 1 for the cover provided by the hedge (I am imagining this as being an obstacle to vision for the gunner, so giving the benefit). They roll 7 ….. a miss, just. The other three Shermans move to the hamlet to stay out of the Panthers view and to look for ambush positions.
|The Panthers return fire|
The two Panthers fire back at the lone Sherman and both miss! This is very embarrassing for Hans, the gunner in 102 panzer, who has spent all morning boasting that he was the top company gunner, the commander tells him to burn his dice!
Ten turns have now been played, so the Tactical Phase ends and we move into the end of turn Phase.
But first, we must see if any other boards are currently contested, under joint occupation. If so, those boards will also each need to play through their own 10 turn Tactical Phase. In our example game, it is only board H that is seeing any action this campaign turn.
Note - This action on board H will resume from its current position in the next Tactical Phase of the next Campaign Turn, but it is likely that the Panthers and lone surviving infantry section will retreat off the board to either board F or G. While the British, to comply with their orders, will likely consolidate until a relief reinforcement arrives to hold the hamlet, at which point they will press on towards Board F.
It is unlikely that they will be in a position to fight on board F until the following campaign turn after the next one, unless they can bring some transport up for the infantry to move faster.
End of turn.
Artillery redeploy phase - The German Divisional Artillery movement from board A to board C declared in the Strategic Phase, is now executed and shown on the map.
Check for Victory Conditions - the campaign scenario will have set these. Perhaps for this campaign the British objective is to be the sole occupant of either board A or B.
With the Strategic, Tactical and End Phase completed, one Campaign turn has concluded and the whole cycle stars again with Campaign Turn 2.
So our snapshot of Campaign Turn 1 and the scope of the 10 turn tactical phase has been highlighted. The system is very slick and importantly it is fast. It is easy to build house rules around the core set. Matt describes it as a simple set and it is - though it is very well thought and and all the more refreshing for that, with much to like.
Despite being just a couple of pages long, I forgot to use the German artillery mission and did not remember until half way through that initiative is tested every turn! That may have mattered.
The only thing that I found odd was that the Panther has a class B gun in the stats, which is the same as all other 75mm’s, but in reality it was the equal of the Tiger’s gun, which gets a class A …. However, in the combat example, the Panther is in fact given a class A gun and in my game, I also gave them a class A. This might be an error on the stat chart, but it hardly matters because everything in this set is very tweakable.
The designer suggest that all measurements should be centimetres for the small scales and inches for 15mm and above. Today, I just used a pinboard for convenience and because I know that gamers using this size of space will be pleased to see something familiar, but even in a larger scale, a 4’ x 3’ playing surface would be a great way for the kitchen table gamer to get a campaign going.
I have tried to show some system here, but if told just as a story, I think you would get a believable narrative as this outpost faced overwhelming odds and a German retreat was always the most likely outcome. The arrival of the Panthers just added something to the mix, but losing one of them would have impacted on the campaign.
On another day, the German MMG may have survived the artillery and the air strike may have been drive off by CAP, making the British infantry advance over open ground a more precarious thing and who knows, perhaps those two failed Panther shots might have caused losses and morale checks amongst the Sherman armour platoon, with everything feeding into the whole campaign experience.
I am already wondering in our little situation here is whether the Panthers will retire to board F or board G? The British already have orders to secure the bridge on board F, so will they start that fight facing Panthers ….. or will the Panthers be in the wrong part of the battlefield and have to spend 5 tactical turns to come to the aid of those defending board F?
All of this of course has to be viewed against the background that within our campaign space a larger order-of-battle exists and so there will be many dynamics going on. The British might send ground attack air unit to board A to try and knock out bridges. Perhaps there, the Germans have already concentrated their A.A. Units. Where is the German tank regiment? Do the Germans have the capability to counter-attack?
Campaign games do take on a life of their own and this test game has enthused me to plan out a campaign to play. Not necessarily to play in a day, rather over several session and I may cover that here in a top down strategic overview of the ongoing action. With a good order-of-battle behind it, I’m sure it would give some very interesting battles, moments and twists.
Campaigns are a very interesting way to wargame, but the cry too often is that as a campaign game drags on, it loses momentum and players fall away, but here, Matt has provided us with an engine that gets things moving and helps ensure that a campaign can be fought through relatively quickly to a conclusion.
Thanks Matt Irsik for creating and sharing your work (see link below).
Warning Orders website - LINK
Click on the column on the left of his homepage to download the latest zine issue.
My sister webspace COMMANDERS is being re-configured to showcase various figure and boardgame systems that I am enjoying and give a flavour of where current ongoing projects are up to. Link.