Battalion HQ. Lard Island News Talk to Dave Brown
As some readers of Lard Island News may know, Dave Brown has been ensconced in Schloss Reisswitz working away producing his new World War 2 rules system. Now that playtesting is at an advanced stage, Lard Island News sent one of our news hounds to find our just what dave has in store for us.
Battalion HQ is the working title, doing exactly what it says on the tin: allowing us to field a battalion plus supports on a WWII battlefield or, with multiple players taking part, have each player command their own battalion sized force.
A battalion is commanded by a Battalion HQ, with supporting Company Commanders who pass down orders to their infantry platoons and supporting tanks and guns. The standard tactical wargame units in Battalion HQ are infantry platoons, supported by individual tanks, AFVs and artillery. This level has been adopted because when playing at this level we can really add to the narrative of a wargame, e.g. Murphy’s platoon has taken the German bunker or Render’s tank platoon has raced ahead to secure the crossroads and so on. And it also helps that that nearly all WWII wargamers will have existing armies modelled or capable of being modelled along similar lines. So, your units deployed in the game are:
- Infantry units are platoons made up, typically, of three infantry sections or squads, e.g. a British infantry platoon of three rifle sections.
- Armoured Fighting Vehicles, Guns and Heavy Weapons deployed in the game are either individual sections or platoons made up of two to four sections, e.g. a “platoon” of four British Cromwell tanks.
Each turn your command units provide a limited number of orders per turn, and the player uses these orders in an attempt to bring command and control to the WW2 battlefield. However there is a catch, as there is no guarantee how many orders that you will receive per turn and players will to have to make vital command decisions in order to achieve victory!
BASING & SCALES.
Basing: Actual model base sizes have no bearing on game mechanics whatsoever, thus its irrelevant how any of the figures or models are based, as long as the individual unit types, i.e. rifle sections, SMG sections or anti-tank sections, are recognisable and perhaps that the opposing armies are based reasonably similarly, simply for convenience sake.
- Figure Scale: One model figure = 2 to 3 men. One model AFV = 1 AFV. One model gun = 1 Gun.
- Time Scale: The game turn is variable, with each turn representing a period of anything from 2 to 10 minutes or more.
So what design elements make this rule set a suitable recruit to the Reisswitz Press barracks?
ORDERS AND FRICTION.
First, in common with the existing Reisswitz Press publications, Battalion HQ has a major focus on command and control and attempts to make this the primary decision making factor, placing the issuing of orders at the right place and at the right time at the centre of the players mind, rather than say, focusing a particular tank’s gun factor or armour thickness.
Battalion HQ has three command and control design priorities; these are:
- A simple and straightforward Battalion command and control process that gives players some but not complete control over their battalion.
- Allows players to influence their command situation by using Company Commanders in a risk/reward decision rather than being completely at the mercy of dice throws.
- To present the players with command decisions that reflect some of the core decisions made on the WW2 battlefield.
THE COMMAND SYSTEM.
How does the Battalion HQ command and control system work in more detail?
Battalion HQ uses a simple mechanism, both players roll a set number of normal six-sided dice per the turn and the scores on each dice score indicate particular orders available to the player. But within this there needs to be some friction, not too much but just enough to throw the odd spanner into the command works! So how does this work?
The Battalion HQ command and control system produces two orders types; HQ Orders and Platoon Orders.
HQ Orders: An HQ Order represents Battalion and Company level command orders. HQ Orders have two functions, firstly they are your higher level command orders that permit the player to call in mortar or artillery support, to issue enhanced platoon orders or even coordinate two simultaneous platoon actions under one order and also permits the player to deploy his reverses. Secondly HQ Orders contribute to winning the turn’s initiative, or who goes first. Thus if you have a good pool of HQ orders you chances of winning the initiative and therefore dictating the direction of the battle is increased. HQ Orders are a valuable resource and a limited number of HQ Orders can be banked and saved from turn to turn, meaning you are able to hold back and then issue this crucial orders in accordance with your battle plan. If you have only a few orders or have recently used them all you could find you battalion is temporarily on the back foot having exhausted its tactical momentum. As such the player has to continually make judgements about when best to use these valuable orders.
Platoon Orders: A platoon order is the basic tactical orders issued by the players on behalf of their platoon commanders to your platoons, tanks and guns. These orders include Fire & Move, Assault and Rally. Platoon orders only last for the turn and as such you will receive a varying amount each turn. Limited platoon orders will require the player to prioritise his command decisions, concentrating on those units that can secure the battalion’s objective. The player will be making similar command decisions presented to platoon and company commanders on the battlefield, by employing the correct tactic for the current situation you’ll probably come close to achieving your aims, whereas to simply run across the open into enemy machine guns, could end up as a costly mistake!
It’s important to note at this point that the issuing of these “wargame orders” to your units does not represent just a select few units receiving orders while others have no orders. What this system assumes is that all units have received their initial battle orders but what the issuing of a platoon order to a unit represents is the amount of time it’s taking your units to actually act on their original battle orders. So, if you are feeding orders to certain units this should be viewed as those particular officers and NCOs getting their men moving quickly and efficiently on the battlefield; while units that are not currently receiving orders should be seen as struggling to carry out their orders and doing so more slowly. Thus units temporarily without orders are taking far more time and taking much longer to carry out their orders.
Friction: Some command dice scores of cab represent inertia in some units, while others can actively reduce the effectiveness of the command chain! In addition to this as your battalion takes casualties your Battalion HQ will lose orders dice, so as the battle grinds on and casualties mount, command and control becomes harder and harder as impetus seeps away.
Your HQ and Platoon orders are your command tools to instruct your platoons fight the battle, to conduct reconnaissance, to move, fire and close combat the enemy in order to achieve victory for your battalion! However it is unlikely you will have enough orders for every unit on the table and as such players will need to prioritise which units receive orders in a particular turn and which do not.
These are your tactical command decisions. I’ve also tried to link the decisions the player would make in the game to similar decisions made by Battalion and Company Commanders on the WW2 battlefield as best one can in a wargame. I wanted players to concentrate a little less on individual weapons factors or gun penetration and more on the tactical situations of platoons and companies, i.e. whether to reinforce a flank, commit more reserves, when to release your armour and when to call in artillery. All these actions are linked to the command decisions you make through the command and control process. Of course players still issue basic platoon orders such as Fire & Move, Assault or Rally – as although we are playing the part of a battalion commander
we are also covering company commanders and we also have to ensure our model platoons do as their told!
Improving the Command Situation. Before rolling the Battalion Orders dice the player may decide to use his Company Commanders to try and improve the command situation. Company Commanders are you second command tier and bring a number of command functions to the battlefield. They are mobile whilst the Battalion HQ is not, thus players will need to ensure that company commanders are in the right place to issue orders to their units. The main command and control feature of a company commander is the ability to add a dice to the battalion orders dice pool and so improve the command situation. This is a risk/reward decision, it could go well or it could go wrong and limit your command influence for the current and potentially future turns. If it goes well you’ll gain extra platoon orders or even an HQ Order. The down side, however of using your company officers is that certain dice combinations will see your company commanders suppressed by sniper fire or removed back into the reserves, (simply moved off-table which is a game mechanic to represent a captain or major being ordered back to battalion HQ to have a short “discussion” with the battalion commander about the situation and getting a grip!) As such players need to carefully consider when they wish to use these extra dice to assist with battalion command. But as mentioned above as the battle develops and casualties mount, players will come under pressure to use these extra dice and the decision to use your company commanders or not becomes even more vital.
All exciting stuff with the realistic emphasis on the chain of command fulfilling their own function and challenging the players to get the best from his force. In forthcoming articles we will be asking Dave for more game specific details, so keep an eye out for them.