HAWKS Gaming Night and Additional Thoughts on WWII Skirmish Rules

I don’t have any pictures, but last night we played two different WWII scenarios for the upcoming Fall In gaming convention.  One involved Japanese and Marines slugging it out on Saipan, and the other involved Germans and Russians on the Eastern Front.  I played in the Saipan game and had a very good time with the very light Japanese tanks trying to get to the beaches to destroy the Marines’ equipment and supplies.  My daughter said that the Russian Front game went really well on the other table.  Both game used Look, Sarge, No Charts:  World War II.

After the game, I had a chance to sit and chat with Don and Dave about my WWII skirmish rules I’ve been developing.  (See several earlier posts.)  Don, who plays a lot of Battleground had some good ideas for the vehicle rules.  Then we talked about morale.  As I’ve mentioned earlier, while I’m pretty happy with the direct fire and need more testing on the HE weapons, I’ve not been satisfied with morale.

I had gone away from one morale check per morale pip as in the Look, Sarge series and went to a single morale check that used the number of accrued morale pips as a modifier.  It worked okay, but the result didn’t seem dramatic or fun.  Last night I hit on a different idea in which you draw one card per morale pip and apply the results.  The table below provides my current thinking on the text of the cards and the number of each.

Card Type Flavor Text Game Effect Num Cards
1 “This place ain’t healthy, Sarge” Figure with lowest Guts runs 10″ toward cover or away from enemy, becomes stunned 3
2 “I’m getting’ outta here!” Figure with lowest Guts runs off the table, removed from the game 1
3 “Take cover!” Number of figures equal to remaining number of morale pips run 10″ toward cover or away from enemy, become stunned 1
4 “… Fight again another day.” Number of figures equal to remaining number of morale pips run off the table, removed from the game 1
5 “@$#%! That was close!” Figure with lowest Guts is stunned 3
6 “@$#%! That was close!” Random figure is stunned 2
7 “This place ain’t healthy, Sarge” Random figure runs 10″ toward cover or away from enemy, becomes stunned 2
8 “I’m getting’ outta here!” Random figure runs off the table, removed from the game 2
9 “Lemme at ’em!” Figure with highest Guts runs toward enemy 1
10 “Take this, you dirty rats!” Figure with highest Guts fires at nearest enemy 2
11 “Snap out of it!” Figure with highest Guts unstuns nearest figure 2
12 “Follow me, men!” Squad leader rallies troops; all stun markers removed 2
13 “Worse than we thought…” Random wounded soldier dies of wounds 2
14 Go to ground; all figures in unit are stunned 3
15 Bad luck! Squad leader is hit by a stray round while trying to rally troops; flip a card for hit location 1
16 “Let’s go!” Unit charges toward enemy 1
17 “Let’s go!” Unit charges toward enemy, but figure with lowest Guts lags behind, stunned 1
18 “Take cover, men.” Unit is pinned 4
19 “Those guys are bums!” No effect; elite unit passes remaining morale checks 10
20 “Those guys are bums!” No effect; regular unit passes remaining morale checks 5
21 “Those guys are bums!” No effect; green unit passes remaining morale checks 1
22 2

How does the Guts level (i.e., morale grade) of the unit benefit you?  Note that on the no effect cards, some are tagged with something like, “elite unit passes remaining morale checks.”  When this card is drawn for an elite unit making a morale check, all the remaining morale pips would be removed, and play continues.  There are 10 of these for Elite units, five for Regular units, and just one for Green units.  I’m worried that this will now bog down the game by taking too long to resolve, but I’ll have to see how it works in practice.

I’ve also been working on a little tool that will help generate semi-random squads for the game.  Below is an excerpt from the Excel workbook I’ve been using.

The notion is that you can set the overall, or average, Guts, Accuracy, Melee, Endurance, and Reaction ratings for the half squad.  Then the tool, using some random numbers and some formulas I built, varies the attributes of the individual figures so that they have some personalization.  The “Need Adjustment” box tracks how the player needs to continue to adjust the numbers so that the half squad still has an average rating equal to what was specified at the beginning.  For instance in the Guts box, note that Figure 3’s Guts is one better than the rest of his unit.  To ensure that the unit retains the correct average Guts rating, the player must subtract one from one of the other soldiers.  As a rule of thumb, you cannot adjust a figure who is different than the base unless you have no option (i.e., all the soldiers were modified).

I’m looking forward to another play test in two weeks.

In the meantime, Noah built a simple app for his Android phone that draws the cards for you.  One of the challenges we had in the last play test was the single deck of cards.  I’ve been hesitant to make multiple decks, since I keep changing them.  I’m working on a similar app for the iPhone.  At some point, the players can have the latest version of the cards to use on the table without having to pass a single deck around.

Play Test of WWII Skirmish Rules

Last night at the HAWKs meeting there were two games.  One was a Union So Tested American Civil War fight.  From what I could tell it was quite a good scenario.  The second game was another (only the second) play test of the WWII skirmish rules I’ve been developing.  Noah, Duncan, Chris, and Don were my guinea pigs.

The scenario was a simple meeting engagement in which both sides were fighting for control of the road intersection in the center of the table.  It perhaps wasn’t an interesting, but I wanted to get the players engaging each other quickly.

The game confirmed that the firing mechanics worked well.  (See previous posts about the card-based combat resolution mechanisms I’ve been developing.)  I may double the weapons ranges.  Right now an M-1 rifle shoots about 36 inches.  In Beer and Pretzels Skirmish I used shooting ranges that were closer to figure scale, but players didn’t seem to like the idea they could shoot across the whole board. Food for thought.

I knew something wasn’t working for activation.  I’ve been using a mechanic similar to the Look, Sarge series, except with many more cards, because I wanted elite and regular units to, in general, activate more frequently than green units.  The down sides were that turns are significantly longer, players don’t get the sense of passage of time, it’s almost impossible to recover from being pinned, and other drawbacks.  For the next test, I’m going to go closer to Look, Sarge, with cards numbered 1 to 6 in red and also in black.  I’ll add an “elite” card.  When that card is drawn, elite units with the same number as the last number called will activate.  So SOME elite units will get two activations in a row.  This is both simpler and addresses some of the issues noted.

Movement worked fine.

I had recently revamped the morale rules, but it didn’t seem that players every failed morale.  In fact most players didn’t even fear the morale checks.  I think what I forgot to take into account is number of figures lost more heavily.  When a figure is wounded or killed, the unit picks up a morale pip.  To pass you subtract the number of morale pips from your “Guts number.”  This difference has to be greater than the target number on the card.  I think I want to make the following change.  In stead of accruing one morale pip for each wound or incapacitate result, you will accrue one per wound and three for each incapacitate.  This should result in more morale failures, which will enable me to test the morale failure mechanics better.

Finally, I’m not sure that I’m happy with the unit record sheets.  On them you track wounds on your figures, but it’s hard to remember to look at the card when shooting, because wounded figures have a negative columns shift.  I won’t make any changes to that just yet, but it’s on my list to revisit later.

Don tried to test rifle grenades, but he “rolled” poorly each time and scattered in a bad direction, so we never got to see how the new mechanics worked.

In general, I’m happy with the way the rules are shaping up.