DRAFT DESERT TERRAN RULES

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Len Tracey
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DRAFT DESERT TERRAN RULES

Post by Len Tracey »

Greetings all,
Apologies for a long post. Below are some draft desert terrain rules that I'm trying out. Putting them up here for perusal. Feel free to use them. I'd appreciate any comments or constructive criticism. They are based on a study I did of desert warfare some time ago and seek to reflect all the different terrain and environmental effects armies used to mitigate the open flatness of north Africa.

DESERT TERRAIN
General
The northern stretches of the Sahara Desert are mostly extremely flat, barren and stony areas. There is no cover for kilometers apart from slight undulations and depressions. Devoid of obvious landmarks, navigation is mainly by sun and stars. The few established tracks and roads provide vital orientation.
Environmentally, the desert is extremely hot, devoid of surface water (except in specific oasis) and has an absence of animal life. Human life is rare and usually nomadic or clustered around the rare areas of fertile ground.

Open Ground
For much of the desert, the bedrock is very close to the surface and covered by only a thin layer of sand and loose gravel. Both foot and vehicle movement is very easy. There is no cover and the ground can be too hot to lie on at times. This open ground can stretch for vast distances, broken only by some of the features noted below.
Rules: Considered as Open Ground for movement, cover and LOS by all units

Scrub
Areas of camel-thorn can be thickly grown but rarely rise higher than half a meter. Standing targets are easily spotted from afar, but prone targets are unlikely to be noticed until quite close range. Foot movement through this thorny scrub is slow and uncomfortable. Vehicle movement is jarring, so also slow.
Rules: Treated as Broken Ground for personnel for movement. Any roll of double 6 for movement inflicts 1 Shock per team on the unit. Treated as Light Cover for personnel. Has no effect on LOS. Vehicles treat this terrain as Broken Ground for movement and clear terrain for cover and LOS.

Hammada
In some places, the flat pan of the desert is densely covered in small stones and loose rocks. This slows vehicle movement and punishes tires and suspensions. Even foot movement can become tiresome on the loose, uneven ground. The density of the loose stones adds to the fragmentation effect of explosive weapons.
Rules: Personnel treat this as Broken Ground for movement and clear terrain for cover and LOS. HE attacks add 1D6 to their firepower dice. Vehicles treat this as Broken Ground for movement and clear terrain for LOS and cover.

Deir
These are shallow depressions that can be up to 100m in diameter but rarely reach a meter at maximum depth. Standing targets can easily be seen over long distances while prone targets can be harder to detect until fairly close. Careful use of the rise can provide some cover for prone firers.
Rules: Personnel treat this as Open Ground for movement and LOS. It provides Light Cover for personnel units in the deir. Vehicles treat this terrain as Open Ground for all purposes.

Hillock
The opposite to Diers. These are small rises in the ground that can be up to 100m in diameter but rarely reach a meter in height. Again, standing targets behind these can easily be seen over long distances while prone targets behind the crest can be hard to detect until fairly close. Similarly, careful use of the crest can provide covered positions for prone firers.
Rules: Personnel treat these features as Open Ground for movement and LOS. Personnel on or behind these features gain Light Cover against fire crossing the Hillock feature. It provides no cover against indirect fire. Vehicles treat these features as Open Ground for all purposes.

Wadi
These are a type of gully that generally has steeper sides due to being formed by rushing water from winter downpours. Wadis can vary from small trench lines a meter or two wide and deep to significant trenches several meters wide and deep. Large Wadis can form a major obstacle for vehicles to cross. However, where the sides slope more gently, these Wadis can make great hull-down positions.
Rules: For game purposes, Wadi are divided into two types:
Small Wadi: These are the size of trench lines and make suitable cover for Infantry and are an obstacle for wheeled vehicles. Personnel can cross these features treating it as a Minor Obstacle. They can enter or leave these features treating it as a Medium Obstacle. While in this feature, personnel count as in Hard Cover. Tracked and half-tracked vehicles treat this feature as a Medium Obstacle to cross and cannot enter into the feature. Wheeled vehicles cannot cross except at a ford.
Large Wadi: These are deep enough and wide enough to count as an anti-tank ditches. The form an obstacle for all movement. Personnel cannot cross this feature but can enter or leave counting it as a Major Obstacle. When in this feature, personnel are out of LOS for any unit outside. Other units in the feature must be within 12” to draw LOS. If LOS can be drawn, then the personnel unit counts as being in Light Cover. Vehicles can only cross or enter/exit the feature via a ford. Once in the feature, they can drive along it, treating it as Heavy Going. Vehicles in the feature are out of LOS to any unit outside. Units in the feature must be within 12” to gain LOS.

Soft Sand
Some flat areas have much lower bedrock and a deeper cover of soft sand. This makes them very slow going for vehicles and also potentially bogging them. Even foot movement can become slower in such loose surfaces. Such areas of soft sand are not always obvious and may be covered by a hard crust, indistinguishable from the surrounding terrain.
Rules: Personnel treat this feature as Heavy Going for movement and Open Ground for LOS and cover. Vehicles treat this feature as Heavy Going for movement, although half-tracked and wheeled vehicles can also traverse it using the same rules for speed and bogging. All vehicles treat this feature as Open Ground for cover and LOS. HE attacks subtract 1D6 from their firepower dice against targets in this terrain.

Dunes
Where soft sand piles up due to wind, sand dunes form. These are low ridges of soft sand that are difficult to traverse by vehicles and slow foot movement. Depending on their height, they make good cover, with high dunes concealing anything behind them.
Rules: Sand Dunes block LOS to any unit behind them. All units can use the crest line as Heavy Cover / Hull Down to attacks crossing the crest line. Dunes are treated as Really Heavy Going for personnel movement. Vehicles treat this feature as Heavy Going for movement, although half-tracked and wheeled vehicles can also traverse it using the same rules for speed and bogging. HE attacks subtract 1D6 from their firepower dice against targets in this terrain.

Sun Dazzle
Early sunrise and late sunset, when the sun is just above the horizon, can cause a dazzling effect on those looking in that direction. Attacks with the sun behind them can benefit from this effect, making the defenders shooting a lot less accurate.
Rules: This effect should be assigned by the scenario to reflect the circumstances. Otherwise a D6 roll of 1 gives the benefit to the defender and a roll of 6 gives it to the attacker. This inflicts a -1 DRM to all shooting rolls attempted by the side suffering the detriment. It does not apply to close combat. The effect is applied from the start of the scenario and ceases when the first turn ends. This effect does not apply if Heat Haze or Blistering Heat is in effect (wrong time of day). Obviously it does not apply at night!

Morning Mist
During the winter months, the desert gets bitterly cold at night, causing dew to form. The rising sun evaporates this dew, causing a thick mist to rise in the early morning. This often reduces visibility a great deal.
Rules: This effect should be assigned by the scenario to reflect the circumstances. Otherwise a D6 roll of 1 or 2 means Morning Mist is in effect for the game. Should Morning Mist be in effect, all LOS is reduced to 18” range. This effect cannot apply at the same time as Sun Dazzle. This effect does not apply if Heat Haze or Blistering Heat is in effect (wrong time of day). Obviously it does not apply at night!

Heat Haze
The blistering heat of the mid-day sun often caused the air to shimmer, distorting vision over distance. This haze effect could cause inaccuracies in both target detection and identification, as well as long-range shooting.
Rules: This effect should be assigned by the scenario to reflect the circumstances. Otherwise a D6 roll of 1 or 2 means Heat Haze is in effect for the game. While this effect is in play, any shooting attacks beyond close range treat the target as being in Light Cover. If they are already in Light Cover or better there is no effect. This can occur along with Blistering Heat. This effect does not apply if Sun Dazzle or Morning Mist is in effect (wrong time of day). Obviously it does not apply at night!

Blistering Heat
During the middle of the day and early afternoon, the desert heat can reach extreme temperatures. The ground can be too hot to touch and metal objects can become cooking surfaces. This extreme heat saps a person’s energy and rapid dehydration can quickly led to heat stroke.
Rules: Any personnel unit moving at the double suffers 1Shock if any doubles are rolled and 1D3 Shock if any triples are rolled. This effect should be assigned by the scenario to reflect the circumstances. Otherwise a D6 roll of 1 or 2 means Blistering Heat is in effect for the game. This can occur along with Heat Haze. It will not occur if Sun Dazzle or Morning Mist are in effect (wrong time of day). It does not occur at night.

Dust & Wind
Strong, gusting winds can whip the desert sand and dust into thick clouds as effective as any smokescreen. Desert sandstorms, or Khamsins (also known as Haboobs), can cover a battlefield in blinding, choking dust that render nearly all military action unworkable. Seeking cover and protection is the only option.
Rules: Strong dust storms only occur if a Command Dice roll results in four sixes. It will then last until the end of the Turn. During this period, all firepower dice are reduced by half after modification for Shock and other factors. All to hit rolls suffer a -2 DRM. Smoke and flamethrowers cannot be used.

Vehicles
On another level, vehicle dust not only makes vehicle movement obvious from great distances away, it can also provide concealment as each vehicle generates its own trailing smokescreen. Vehicles speeding away from an engagement are often effectively covered by their own dust trail.
Rules: Vehicles travelling at Slow speed are considered to have a 3” x 3” smoke screen trailing directly behind them. Vehicles travelling at Fast speed are considered to have a 3” x 6” smoke screen trailing directly behind them. Vehicles travelling at Flat Out speed are considered to have a 3” x 9” smoke screen trailing directly behind them. This is removed at the start of their next phase.

Sangars
Given that the bedrock of the desert is mostly covered by only a thin veneer of sand, digging-in is often impossible. Instead, troops would gather local stones and rocks to create thick barriers above ground. These improvised low stone walls were referred to as sangars.
Rules: These improvised defences are purchase in the same way as entrenchments. They provide Hard Cover to personnel behind them against any fire that crosses them. From any other direction they provide no cover. However, two sangars can be combined to provide 360 degree protection (reflects the soldiers building a circular wall rocks). Given the time required to collect rocks, sangars cannot be built in-game.

Cheers
Last edited by Len Tracey on Fri Nov 24, 2023 11:54 pm, edited 4 times in total.
henjed69
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Re: DRAFT DESERT TERRAN RULES

Post by henjed69 »

This look very good - I have only just started playing CoC for North Africa; but have played BKCIV in that theatre for a number of years and find (in that context) the weather/visibility rules (mist/haze/glare) particularly important.

I'll be having a good read of these later - thanks for posting them up!

Mike H
jon1066
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Re: DRAFT DESERT TERRAN RULES

Post by jon1066 »

I'd be a little careful of introducing a new concept in the rules - that is Tactical Units going out of sight. If you think about it a wall would provide a similar effect in Western Europe but that rule isn't in effect there.

Given the abstraction of what exactly movement, firing, tactical and cover represent I'd be inclined to simply give any infantry in a depression or behind a low rise light cover. No worries about have they moved, are they tactical, can they be seen, is the shooter on a rise themselves, etc. So infantry get light cover improved to hard if tactical. JOP can still be placed representing the hidden positions/approach and short sight lines.

If you allow tactical units to be invisible you'll end up with a shooting jack in the box. Simply going tactical removes them as a visible target so all shock can be removed at leisure then spring back up and blast away again. Leaders don't even need to be exposed to fire as they can remove shock from command range and need not be attached.
Len Tracey
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Re: DRAFT DESERT TERRAN RULES

Post by Len Tracey »

Thanks for the comments jon1066, appreciate your input. I fully agree with the points you raised and have amended the post above accordingly. Your concern mainly related to the rules for Deir, Hillock and small Wadi. These have been amended to remove the Tactical out of LOS provisions. Hopefully the adjustments will simplify things and keep them in accordance with standard rules.
Cheers
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Capt Fortier
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Re: DRAFT DESERT TERRAN RULES

Post by Capt Fortier »

Thanks Len - as always some very thoughtful and useful ideas, adding some rich detail around desert conditions and terrain, especially for campaigns and specific scenarios. I do think jon1066's comments also worth considering re simply using the cover advantage rather than out-of-LOS for going tactical. Perhaps it would be better to make these kind of adjustments based on troop type/desert experience - eg. when desert experienced troops are in the relevant terrain features (deir, small wadi, behind hillock), reroll any 6’s on the shooting dice and on a 4+ the hit still counts, otherwise it is a miss.

PS: had missed your response to jon1066 - I think that's the right call re LOS - but still think could be worth considering how troops with more desert experience might benefit from terrain
Capt Fortier

“Frapper l'ennemi, c'est bien. Frapper l'imagination, c'est mieux.” - Jean de Lattre de Tassigny
Len Tracey
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Re: DRAFT DESERT TERRAN RULES

Post by Len Tracey »

Cheers Capt Fortier. The idea of desert experience is one I hadn't thought of, but an interesting one. I will have to give it some serious thought.
One option might be to give experienced desert troops Hard Cover when utilizing Deir & Hillock. Meanwhile, inexperienced troops might not get any cover bonus from those features. Could also increase/decrease the effects of Heat for experience level.
All comments on this welcome. My main aim is to keep things as simple as possible and use existing rules. Hopefully, if people are interested in this area, it will stimulate a North African campaign book. (:
jon1066
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Re: DRAFT DESERT TERRAN RULES

Post by jon1066 »

Experienced troops can be made elite without the extra command dice.
poiter50
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Re: DRAFT DESERT TERRAN RULES

Post by poiter50 »

Len, insiteful as ever, thank you.

My devious mind says, are you cooking something up with Rich, as you have in the past?
Len Tracey
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Re: DRAFT DESERT TERRAN RULES

Post by Len Tracey »

Rich is very interested in doing a western desert & Tunisia handbook; but this will be a fair way off. He still has to get the two Asia-Pacific handbooks done! Any book will have to include Tunisia and the Americans if it is to sell in the USA. My hope is that if people start playing the theatre, then that will give impetus for the project. So, my contribution is a crack at the terrain rules. I'm no expert on the unit organizations involved, but I have worked a bit in the desert during my career (Australia has a lot of it). Have to see how things go.
Cheers
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JOHN BOND 001
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Re: DRAFT DESERT TERRAN RULES

Post by JOHN BOND 001 »

Interesting update Len, I have been hanging out to see CoC move into the Desert theater, I have been collecting and painting up 20mm 8th army and DAK infantry and vehicles for a while now. I think using 20mm would be better suited for gaming the desert. ;)
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