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Some musings on light mortars and smoke

Posted: Thu May 21, 2020 3:48 am
by dakkadakka
I downloaded the BFL supplement which had the smoke rules, and I want to be sure I played this correctly.

My British 2” mortar team is trying to lay a smoke screen in front of a house containing a German tripod MG. I drop a marker in front of the house (no roll needed to hit). Then, I rolled a scatter die and 1d6 to determine direction and distance for the second round and got a 5. Tea break card comes up and I don’t connect the markers because they are more than 4” apart. Place a die with a 3 next to each marker to represent how many tea breaks are left before removing the smoke.

Second turn I fire another smoke round at the house in the same spot as the first one - auto hit again. Scatter this time is a 3 in the opposite direction. At the tea break I connect the two markers and keep the 3 on the first die, drop the die next to the line marker 5” away to a 2.

If I want to keep the screen going, I drop yet another marker down somewhere in that 3” line. No matter where the second marker scatters I will not only keep the original line going, but also whatever line that forms from the third scatter roll (assuming it also is 4”or less). The first die stays on 3 while the die next to the lone marker drops to 1

If this is correct it seems to me that smoke is really powerful. It always hits its target and it’s easy to keep it going. That MG will never see out of that window for the rest of the game (or at least three tea breaks after the fourth smoke round is expended). It just seems like there should be some type of deviation roll for that first round. Or, make a roll to hit just as if you were firing HE (4+ to hit if in LOS, 5+ if not).



Re: Some musings on light mortars and smoke

Posted: Thu May 21, 2020 8:17 pm
by Archdukek
Hi Jim,
British light mortars were very accurate weapons when used by a well trained crew and were a key component in the platoons arsenal. There are some limitations though. The crew must have line of sight to what they are aiming at and can only keep firing smoke for 4 turns. If they don’t keep stoking a screen it will start to disperse after 3 turns, it won’t last the whole game.
So while they are blockIng the MG in the window for up to 7 turns, they won’t be putting down a smokescreen anywhere else.


Re: Some musings on light mortars and smoke

Posted: Fri May 22, 2020 9:10 pm
by dakkadakka
Hey John:

From what I’ve read about light mortars, they were Indeed pretty accurate. I guess my main cause of concern is the auto-hit of the first round. As a long-time gamer I’ve never been a fan of the automatic hit; and, only slightly more in favor of the auto-miss (notwithstanding range, LOS, etc). Although I’ve never been in a battle, the reflections of those who were that I’ve read always indicate one certainty - that there is no certainty in a battle.

The idea that, once you get a smoke screen going, you will always be able to keep it going since the first round is always on target, just doesn’t seem right. Dud rounds, slight shifts in the position of the mortar tube, sudden gusts of wind, the gunner having to go take a leak, etc - there are a lot of factors that could impact whether that screen gets stoked.

The other issue I have is this. Say you successfully create a screen with one round, going North-South. The next turn you fire a second round onto the screen, which keeps it going. Let’s say it’s also successful and extends west, making a T. On turn three you fire another round into the screen, which now keeps both going, etc, etc. so you are automatically stoking an ever increasing screen with each subsequent round. That’s just with one mortar team. If you have more than one team, they can conceivably keep enlarging and maintaining this screen for a long time.

I agree with what you said in that, if the player decides to concentrate this much effort into smoking out one position, that he will not have the assets to be doing so elsewhere. The auto hit of the first round just seems a little gamey. However, since the mortars only have a limited amount of smoke rounds, it probably balances it out in the end.

Two final questions and I’ll put the matter to rest. First, when you fire the subsequent round onto an existing screen, does it stoke the screen regardless of whether the second marker is close enough to form a second screen (4 or less)?

Second, let’s say my mortar team successfully forms a smoke screen, and a die with a 3 on it gets placed on the first tea break. The cards are shuffled and a new turn is started, but the mortar team did not activate before the next tea break came up. So, I’m guessing the die is dropped to 2. Let’s say that the same thing happens on the following turn (tea break came up before the mortar team is activated - die dropped to one). On the fourth turn, the mortar team lucks out and gets to activate, firing its second smoke round onto the almost-gone screen, stoking it back up. When the tea break card comes up, is the die reset to 3 again?

Sorry if I’m sounding nit-picky - it’s an unfortunate side effect of proofreading a lot of rulesets over the years. I’m not one of those players who looks for loopholes in the rules to gain an advantage. Quite the contrary - I enjoy playing friendly games. I just want to be sure I’m playing the game correctly.