Monday, January 6, 2014

The Price of Victory - Turn 1

While I know that many guys are happy playing many of the popular World War II miniature rules that are available, it's no secret that I've been having a difficult time finding a set to handle a platoon per side that I really like. I want something that makes me face all the hard minute-by-minute decisions real commanders had to make. I want it nail-biting to the end, with victory never guaranteed. I want to feel for my soldiers. You know. The basics. :-)

I Create A Game That Works? No Way!
A couple months ago in a fit of frustration temped with rage, I threw up my hands, sat at my computer, and began banging out a set of rules that featured what I would like to see. I even came up with a name for them: "The Price of Victory." (I tried to avoid using words like "band of" or "brothers" or "heroes" in the title--the world cannot bear the weight of another WWII game with those words in its title! However, "Hero Brothers Band" did strike a chord with me. ... Thank you, I'll be here all week. Tip your server.)

Over the Christmas break, I was tinkering with "The Price of Victory" at my computer when I smacked myself in the head. Idea! Why not set up a table using my 15mm figures and scenery that have been languishing in a box for ages? For some reason, pushing metal about a table gives a better perspective than pushing a pencil across paper.

After a few games of tinkering solo, I had myself a set of rules to play. We gathered together the League (ok, it was just Agent Abel and me, but then we are the League, aren't we?) and got our game on, so to speak. I played Americans the first game and then Germans the second game. Instead of me explaining how the rules work, I'll show you with a bit of an AAR from one of the games.

"Not So Quiet on the Obscure Front"
(The title was my son's idea when he saw the table set up. He's a WWI guy, finding WWII a bit too pedestrian for his tastes. Uh huh. Yep. So he says to us, "So how's the fighting going on the Obscure Front today?" Sigh. I think he takes after his mother. LOL. Anyway, let's begin the game!)

The game is set up. A bit abstract, but sometimes ya gotta work with what ya got.

The Game Turn: The game is a series of turns. There are no phases or anything. Just a turn. When one turn ends, players remove any markers needing to be removes, and a new turn begins. Of course, a lot can happen during a turn!

Units: Each figure is one soldier. Figures form into units based on their nationalities and the time period. A unit could be a single figure, such as a medic, or it could be an entire squad of riflemen with a BAR and SMG tossed in. It doesn't matter. The rules refer to everything as a unit, though sometimes in this AAR I call them squads and such for flavor.

Initiative: Player initiative is playing card driven because it's easy, fun, and oh so chaotic--just like the battlefield. Standard 52-card deck here with two jokers. Flip a card, see who has initiative. Player 1 gets black cards, Player 2 gets red cards, and Jokers end the turn. Simple enough. (Plus, I like collecting playing cards. BTW I have a neat deck of WWII airplane recognition playing cards. I kept my Scooby-do card in the closet.)

Turn 1: Round 1 - American
The American Force: A reinforced Platoon with 6 units
After some friendly banter about who will beat whom, the first initiative card is turned over for the first turn. Black. The American player has the initiative. He is advancing his platoon in V formation through some light wounds on the edge of the village, with 1st and 2nd Squad on point, 3rd Squad in reserve, and a LMG unit looking to set up some fire for support. The Platoon Lt and his Sergeant form the force's Command Unit, which is walking a bit behind but close enough for his messengers to reach his squads. The medic (a 1-figure unit) is hanging by the Command Unit. The American objective is to take and hold the church, which sits in the center of an important crossroads.

The American player announces that he will try to activate one of his infantry units, 1st Squad, to move forward. He needs to roll 7+ on 2d6 to activate the unit. All Regular units activate on 7+. Veteran units on 6+, Elite on 5+, but Green units on 8+. The 1st Squad is within 9" of the Platoon Commander, so he gets a +1 bonus for being within Command Range of his force's commander. The unit is totally fresh, no Combat Fatigue markers or Action markers on it, yet. They're not abandoning any wounded figures to the enemy, so no penalty there. Excellent. Just as it should be on Turn 1! He rolls an 8, adds the + 1 command bonus, for a total of 9. The squad activates, understanding the battleplan to keep advancing for now.

The American player now rolls for movement, which is random. He rolls 2d6 and gets a 1 and 4. Since a unit can move up to the highest rolling die in inches, the unit can move up to 4" as its action, which it does. The unit then ends its action, so the player places a small Action marker next to the unit. (He could use an off-table roster to record this or his memory, but we like to use small markers to make life easier in our old age!)

Turn 1: Round 2 - American
Another initiative card is flipped. Black. American again. Now, the American player could try to activate the 1st Squad again. After all, a unit can perform a maximum of three actions a turn. However, each Action marker will add a -1 die roll penalty to his unit's Activation roll. The American player decides best to keep his force together as best he can before the shooting starts. He makes an Activation roll for 2nd squad, makes the roll, and has the unit move forward. He rolls 2d6 for 3 and 5, discards the 3, and moves 2nd Squad the full 5", just a bit ahead of 1st Squad. He places an Action marker on the unit, ending its activation.

Turn 1: Round 3 - German
Flip an initiative card. Red. German player has initiative. Yipee! Unfortunately, there's not much to do since he is defending in place. He has two infantry squads in place. He is waiting for the third squad to arrive--during their mad rush and confusion to defend the village once they realized the Americans were landing on Normandy they lost sight of the truck carrying the third squad. Hopefully it wasn't captured.

He has divided each of his two infantry units into two independent units--an LMG unit and a rifle unit--giving him a total of four infantry units plus a Command Unit to activate for now. One LMG unit is in the bell tower while its parent rifle unit is in the cemetery to the rear of the church, facing the enemy. The other LMG unit is barricaded in the middle of the street, while its parent unit is in the farmhouse to the lower right. (We pretended that when it arrived prior to the game, the force encountered  brief partisan resistance from the farmhouse, which is easily put down with an assault.)

The German player announces that he will be activating his rifle unit in farmhouse and that they will move across the courtyard toward the far wall. His units are all Regular, just like the American player's units, so he will need to roll 7+ on 2d6 to activate. The unit is too far away from the force's Command Unit, which is in the church cemetery, so no +1 Command bonus this time! No other modifiers apply, so he rolls the dice and gets a total of 3. Ach! (Or, insert your own German cuss word here.) The unit fails its activation roll and is marked as Spent, able to do nothing.

Spent Units: A Spent unit either has performed its maximum of three actions for the turn or fails an Activation roll during the tun. A Spent unit cannot be activated the rest of the turn. In this case, the German player reasoned that his so called soldiers were too busy getting frisky with the house frau and the pantry to hear the orders being barked.

Turns & Time: A turn is only a few minutes of real time, so you can see how this would make sense. Also, now the American player knows that German unit is Spent and cannot activate. The info does him no good since the enemy unit is too far out of sight and range to be any threat for a long time. When a closer unit enemy unit becomes Spent, we rationalize this by saying that our soldiers can tell when something ain't right with the enemy. Why are they not moving? What is going on there? Perhaps the player will take advantage of those Spent enemy units and lay down some fire or try to move through the Spent unit's field of fire while the Spent unit cannot react. Just remember that all movement is random. Initiative is random. The Joker can end a turn at any time. And Activations are rolled for. Push your luck if you like, but be prepared to pay the consequences if your luck runs out!

No Opportunity Fire: Here is where no opportunity fire comes into play because it is baked into the initiative, activation, and movement mechanics. Imagine your opponent decided to move one of his units through your LMG unit's field of fire. One of your opponent's units is caught in the street at the end of its action, not having enough movement to make it into cover because it faltered while moving. (The player rolled double 1s when he needed at least a 3 to reach cover!) Lucky for you, you own the next drawn initiative card. Your LMG has a clear line of fire to the enemy unit in the open--easy pickings. It also has a line of fire to an enemy LMG that has been harassing you from the wood edge, and it looks like another enemy unit is preparing to assault a key objective. Which unit do you shoot at? Or do you withdraw to safer lines while you still can? Perhaps you'll get lucky with initiative draws and activation rolls, being able to act two or three times before the enemy can. Perhaps your opponent will get unlucky again, leaving his unit in the open to activate a different unit. See, it's all about prioritizing decisions. No need for "opportunity fire" rules. It's baked in. It also creates many tense moments!

Turn 1: Round 4 - German
Another red card is drawn, so the Germans have the initiative again. Still waiting and watching what the Americans will do, the German player is down to three units since the one unit is Spent for the turn: his Command Unit, his LMG unit in the tower, and his rifle unit in the cemetery. He decides to give his rifle unit in the cemetery a Pass action, which automatically gives the unit an Action marker, ending its activation for the round but keeping it available until later in the turn, when it might be needed,

At Will Actions: He also had the option of giving one of his units an At Will action. However, there was no need just yet. There are only two At Will actions: Rally and First Aid. Actually, a unit can normally perform either of these actions when rolling to activate. However, when a player says a unit will perform one of these two actions as an At Will action, that can be the one and only action that the unit performs that turn.

So why bother then Rallying a unit only once as an At Will action when you could possibly Rally a unit three times in a turn? Well, how lucky do you feel and how desperate is the situation? There might be times that a unit suffers so many Combat Fatigue markers from taking fire that there is practically no way to activate the unit. For every two of those markers, which we shorten to Fatigue, gives the unit a -1 die roll penalty on its activation roll. Five Fatigure would incur a -2 penalty. So taking one guaranteed action to Rally off the Fatigue might be a good decision. Just another one of those decisions you'll have to make--push your luck and keep firing on the enemy instead of trying to Rally off those couple Fatigue markers, hoping to eliminate him before your boys become shot up again and take more casualties? You decide. (We'll cover Fatigue next time when we get into combat.)

First Aid does not remove Fatigue. Instead, the soldiers in the unit take a few moments to try patching up all their Wounded comrades. If lucky, their wounds will be lighter than thought so the soldier can return to action or be patched up enough as to not be a burden, finding a safe spot to wait out the action for more help. (Leaving wounded soldiers behind while withdrawing from an enemy is not a good idea! The other soldiers in the unit might not like that, refusing to move.) A nearby Medic Unit might help increase the odds. If unlucky, the soldier dies from his wounds and is removed from the game. Still, it's always good to check. But when is a good time for First Aid? That is another decision to make?

Turn 1: The Rest of the Turn
Play keeps going like this. Initiative cards are drawn, players try to activate units, some units activate while others fail. The American player keeps most his force together, though 3rd Squad tends to lag behind. His Command Unit advances in step with the other two rifle units and the LMG unit. The German player bides his time, passing for the first turn. Unfortunately, he wishes the first unit he tried to activate were better at following orders, but such is the Fog of War. Better luck next turn.

Command Unit Activation: This is a good time to mention Command Units. A Command Unit does not need to roll for Acivation. It does so automatically and can do so up to three times, like any other infantry unit. However, Command Units do little other than moving. Their job is to make sure the troops are carrying out the battle plan. Command Units on their own cannot attack or be attacked by direct fire. (They can be attacked by snipers and indirect fire, but that is another issue.) They can attach to a unit, which helps the unit during Rally attempts more so than it would being near the unit. Once attached to a unit, the commander can begin attacking, but it can also be attacked. So attaching can be risky, though sometimes one must lead from the front.

End of Turn: The turn ends when a Joker is revealed or there are no more units left to activate, or when both players say that their remaining units are doing nothing but passing anyway, such as when there are only Command Units left that are going nowhere.

The Americans at end of Turn 1. Not too bad. Unfortunately, the LMG unit is lagging a bit.

So here is where we leave it. In this post you got to see how the activation and movement works. You also got a glimpse and command and control and well as some decisions players will have to make.

The Thrilling Next Installment!
The next installment will continue the game and rules (as I find time to write the post!). The Americans will continue their advance, probably coming into weapons range real soon. Will they be able to find the enemy, fix him with fire, and then flank him? Will the German reinforcements arrive in time? Will that German squad ever get out of the farmhouse? Will their three machineguns make small work of the American's advance, repelling them back to the beaches? We will see in the next thrilling installment of "The Price of Victory," when we look at how combat works.


  1. I have also recently come around to simple activation using cards - black for one side, red for the other, player chooses unit to activate and a joker to end the turn. But I had not thought about combining this with activation rolls (which is weird as I use activation rolls in my ancient rules but no cards). Interesting idea to combine both. I like it.

  2. You know, I never thought of combing them either until recently. It does add a lot of tension.

  3. Hi ,
    Nice blogg : )
    I tried a thing y-day when playing half and half bolt action, the defending germans could put a order on one russian enemy unit if a special german dice was drawn , much fun ,like a down order when they needed to advance or move to place some tank in front of a Pak ,
    most games are to organized wich sc real isnt
    I will try to evaluate to see if I can expand the thing with giving orders to the enemy to see if things can get even more confused ,
    I also use a special dice to end a turn prematurely , noone knows when turn ends .

    1. Hi Tactting! Welcome aboard!

      I like the idea of special dice allowing you to put an order on an enemy unit. I never thought of that. It really adds that fog of war, stuff happens feel. I like the Bolt Action dice draw for initiative. You can add so many different twists to it. Put in a red die, and a fighter starts strafing the game. All sorts of possibilities.

      I really like the end of turn die idea! Then the game doesn't turn into chess, with each player knowing how how much time remains. Here is an idea I got from a board game I play. Put two end of turn dice in the cup, When the 2nd die is drawn, the turn ends. The game gets a bit more intense once that 1st end of turn die is drawn because players know the turn can stop any any time after that!

      Keep us updated. Sounds like fun!