Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Cover and Defensive Saves

Models also receive a Save.  In Shooting and Firefight, this Save is called a Cover Save.  In Melee, it is called a Defensive Save.

A Cover Save represents a model’s ability to interpose obstacles or the earth between itself and incoming fire.  Game models are almost always depicted standing upright, brandishing their weapons, but we may assume actual soldiers will often be crouching, ducking, or crawling.

  • In the Shooting Phase, the basic Cover Save is 3+.
  • In the Firefight Phase, the basic Cover Save is 5+.
  • A target in Soft Cover gains +1 to their Cover Save.
  • A target in Hard Cover gains +2 to their Cover Save.
  • A target that is Cowering gains +1 to the Cover Save.

The High Explosive trait reduces Cover Saves.  Each level of HE reduces the Cover Save by 1.  This even effects the basic Save.  So a Good HE weapon can remove Cover Saves altogether.

In Melee, models may receive a Defensive Save.  This Save represents the model dodging or parrying or perhaps weirder stuff like force-fields or magic.  The basic Defensive Save is 5+.  Certain traits may increase or decrease the Defensive Save.

Geek Note

Soft Cover will be natural stuff, like trees, fences or whatever.  Hard Cover is actual military fortifications.  This game is not going to permit models to dig or create cover during play.  It represents a much closer, sharper, shorter engagement than Flames of War, with no time to dig foxholes or lay sandbags.

A model can easily gain a 1+ or better Cover Save by getting into cover and cowering. This is as it should be: a model should be really hard to get out of a prepared position.  Flames of War players may think a 1+ Cover Save is excessive, but remember, in my game, there is no equivalent to Firepower.  A model with a 1+ cover save will fail on double 1s -- statically the same as a FoW stand dug into bulletproof cover and shot with a machine gun.  Furthermore, the High Explosive characteristic (found on artillery and so forth)  will reduce Cover Saves.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

To Wound

For each Hit, roll a die to-Wound the model.

The basic number needed to-Wound is a 2+.

The to-Wound roll is subject to modifiers:

    If the model has Armor or Toughness, then the difficulty increases by 1 for each level of Toughness and/or Armor.
    If the attacker has a Massive weapon, then reduce Toughness for each level of Massive.
    If the attacker has an AP weapon, then reduce Armor by each level of AP. 
    Once Toughness or Armor is reduced to 0, neither Massive nor AP have any additional effect.


Let us use some examples from Games Workshop’s Warhammer 40K universe, since most gamers are familiar with that background.  (Again, no challenge to their intellectual property is intended.)

An Imperial Guardsman with a lasgun (no special characteristics) hits at a Cultist (no special characteristics).  The to-Wound roll is 2+.

The Guardsman hits an Ork with Toughness 1.  The Ork’s Toughness increases the to-wound difficulty to 3+.  The same Guardsman then shoots at a Space Marine with Toughness 1 and Armor 2.  The difficulty increases to 5+.

The Guardsman equips himself with a bolter (Massive 1). He hits the same Cultist Ork and Space Marine.  The Massive has no extra effect against the puny Cultist, however, who is still wounded on a 2+ . The Massive negates Toughness but not Armor.  His to-Wound is now 2+ against the Ork and 4+ against the Space Marine.

The Guardsman now equips a Heavy Bolter (Massive 2, AP 1).  First he shoots the Ork.  The “extra” Massive has no effect on the Ork, and the Ork isn’t wearing armor, so AP is irrelevant.  His to-wound remains 2+ against the Ork. Then he shoots the Space Marine. The “extra” Massive has no effect on the Space Marine, either, but the AP removes one level of Armor. His to-Wound improves to 3+ against the Space Marine.

Geek Notes

I am working on the assumption that Hits are generally man-lethal.  If every target in the game was an unarmored human, then I would skip the to-Wound step altogether.  Flames of War does just that - for infantry, a hit is a hit.  FoW doesn't worry whether a .50 or a .30 is more lethal.  But our universe will have tougher and better armored things in it. So we have to worry about whether a .50 or a .30 better kills elephants and battle armor.  Hence we have Toughness and Armor.

The Warhammer series of games, by contrast, assume that, weapon Strength and target Toughness being equal, a weapon wounds on a 4+.  It must includes things like scrapes and near misses in the 50% of Hits that do not Wound, because otherwise it's pretty silly.  Think of all those chainsaws in the 40k universe!  I intend for cover saves to play a bigger role in my game than they do in the Warhammer series, though, so I'm sticking with 2+.

You will notice, however, that bigger, badder weapons do not get better at Wounding ordinary men. You never get better than a 2+.  So, in my game, some things are just overkill.   (This goes a long way towards explaining why even well-equipped forces carry ordinary rapid-firing small arms and not a zillion bazookas.)

Armor Piercing and Massive are separate characteristics, allowing a wider range of weaponry with different table-top performance. A weapon might be very high in one, and useless in another.  Think of an exploding shell that can tear a man apart but which cannot penetrate sealed battle-armor -- or of a thin intense energy pulse that punches through plate but can't stop a charging bull mastodon.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Allocation of Hits

Once the attacking unit has rolled to-Hit, the defending player must allocate each Hit to a model in the target unit.

The defending player must allocate the Hits using the following criteria, in order of priority.

In Shooting and Firefight:
  • The model must be in range of the firing weapon.
  • If the weapon permits the attacker to single out a target model, that model must take all hits from the weapon.
  • Hits must be evenly distributed.  So each model in range must take 1 hit before any model may take 2, and each model in range must take 2 before any model takes 3, etc.
  • If the weapon permits the attacker to designate a particular target type, the hit must be taken against a preferred target type before against any other.  (This is relevant to certain heavy weapons.)
In Melee:
  • Hits must be taken on models within 2" of the attacker.
  • Hits must be evenly distributed.  So each model in range must take 1 hit before any model may take 2, and each model in range must take 2 before any model takes 3, etc.
  • Hits must be taken on a models in base contact with the attacking model before being taken on a model within 2".

Beyond these guidelines, the defending player may chose which model is Hit.

In some cases, you may be able to fast-roll the Wounds and Saves for multiple Hits at the same time, but you may only do so if you and your opponent agree that it won't make a substantial difference.

Geek Notes

I've been playing a lot of 6th ed Warhammer 40k recently.  One of its peculiarities is its wound allocation system -- the closest target model takes all the hits till he dies.  Then the next closest model takes them all, till he dies, and so on. I think I prefer this system over 5th edition, where a player could artificially ensure the survival of a powerfist or meltagun till all the rest of the squad had died.

It's annoying to lose your good stuff - and presumably, a real commander would also try to keep the special weapons in action.  Thus I prefer a system such as this, in which the defender has certain limited ability to avoid losing a key model.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

To Hit

The same mechanic is used in Shooting, Firefight and Melee.

Roll a number of dice equal to the Rate of Fire or Rate of Attacks for each model.

The basic number needed to hit is 4+.

Attacker and defender compare relative skill.  If the Attacker is greater, reduce the difficulty by 1 per level of skill difference.  If the Defender is better, increase the difficulty by 1 per level of skill difference.

Modifiers apply in Shooting and Firefight:
  • If the target is Concealed, increase the difficulty by 1.
  • If the target is Cowering, increase the difficulty by 1.   
  • Models that are Cowering or Suppressed will suffer a penalty to hit of -2.
  • Models that moved in the previous Movement phase suffer a to hit penalty of -1 with their small arms.  Certain heavy weapons may suffer a -2 penalty or be unable to fire at all.

Geek Notes

These are pretty standard rules, more or less like other war-games in the beer-and-pretzels tradition.

As in Flames of War, the skill of the target unit matters for ranged fire. More experienced troops will be better at moving about, utilizing terrain, and avoiding dangerous situations, so they will be harder to hit.  But unlike in Flames of War, which uses an invariant system; here it's the relative difference in skill that matters.  I assume that a clever shooting unit can counter the skill of a clever target unit: it only makes a difference if the shooting unit is noticeably better- (or worse-)trained than the target.

Suppressed or moving troops do not usually reduce their Rate of Fire -- they just reduce the likely-hood they will hit any damn thing.  (Here I will admit inspiration from Warhammer 40k's new Snapfire system.)  I find that it's generally just more satisfying to roll more dice.  The number of dice hitting the table evokes the flurry of bullets flying wildly through the air.

The double-ones and double-sixes rule grants me a greater range of flexibility than a system that says "sixes always hit" or "ones always miss."

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Turns and Phases


Turns are I-Go, U-Go.


Each turn has four phases:
  1. Movement
  2. Shooting.  For all shooting over 12”. Only the active player shoots.
  3. Firefight.  For all shooting within 12”.  Both players shoot.  Cover saves are worse than at range.
  4. Melee.  Unpinned units within range may charge into melee and fight.  Both players fight.

Geek Notes

I toyed around with the idea of alternating activations.  Lots of games use them, but they've never felt quite right to me. They are hard to keep track of and muddle the sequence of play unbearably.

The Firefight phase is a bit of a novelty.  (I think there may be something like it in Epic 40k.) Here the Firefight phase represents what, in Flames of War, would be part of the Assault Phase.  The bit of a fire and maneuver in which the maneuvering force is now close enough to the enemy to shoot them at close range, ignoring their fortifications, and to use close weapons like pistols, grenades, and SMGs.  It also represents the moment with the maneuvering attacks must surrender their cover to make that last push on the defenders.  Thus, both sides get to shoot.

 It has a couple of advantages, game mechanically:

  1. It allows us to do without that awkward beast known variously as Defensive Fire or Overwatch.  Anything that wants to close to Melee is going to have to get shot in the face, regardless of gimmicky movement rules. 
  2. It permits further differentiation of weapons and roles. Some units can be really good at long range shooting, and others can specialize at getting into the enemy’s face and blasting away.  Dedicated assault units may shoot terribly, but be really good and clubbing things with sticks or swords.


Weapons are defined by several characteristics.

All ranged weapons have:

  1. Range
  2. Rate of Fire

Weapons may also have the following common special characteristics:

  • Massive.  Massive weapons negate Toughness.
  • Armor Piercing.  Armor Piercing weapons negate Armor worn by infantry.
  • High Explosive:  High Explosive weapons negate Cover Saves.
  • Anti-Tank: Anti-Tank weapons may damage Vehicles.

Special Characteristics have a rating.  A big gun might be Massive 1.  An even bigger one would be Massive 2.  Etc.

Melee equipment grants:
  • Rate of Attacks
Melee weapons may also possess the following common special characteristics:
  • Anti-Tank: Anti-Tank weapons may damage Vehicles.
  • Melee Defense.  Increases the Save in Melee.
  • Melee Offense.  Decreases the Save in Melee.
  • Massive.  Massive weapons negate Toughness.
  • Armor Piercing.  Armor Piercing weapons negate Armor worn by infantry.

Geek Notes

Most models are going to have an RoF of 2.  Machine-Guns will have a RoF of around 10. 

The names are intended to be evocative; it is the game-mechanical effect that is important, not the name.  So, for example, flame-throwers will have a High Explosive rating because they negate cover, even if they do not actually explode things. 

A model's melee Rate of Attacks reflects the unit's doctrine, training and ammunition as much as the actual type of equipment carried. In close combat, dedicated shooting models will usually have 1 attack.  Generalist elite units will have 2 attacks.  Dedicated assault units will usually possess 3.

Basic Characterisics

Models are rated by Ranged Skill and Melee Skill:
  • A Skill rating of 0 does not bear contemplating. Such incompetents will almost never see the battlefield.
  • A poorly-trained unit or force will have Skill ratings of 1. It is typical of conscripts, cultists or militia.
  • A typical army will have Skill ratings of 2 across the board.  This represents a competent and professional force.  
  • An elite unit or army will have Skill ratings of 3.  (Or maybe just one or the other, depending on its specialization.)  This is the highest rating you'll see across a whole army.
  • A super-elite unit might have a single Skill rating of 4.  This allows us to further differentiate elite armies, giving them an "elite of the elite."  You'll probably never see such a rating for a whole army.

Models are also rated by Leadership.
  • 6+ Leadership is truly awful.  You will only see a 6+ on untrained draftees or civilians.
  • 5+ Leadership indicates unmotivated or poorly-led troops.  
  • 4+ Leadership is typical for a well-motivated and led professional army.
  • 3+ Leadership distinguishes highly-motivated, possibly fanatical troops.
  • 2+ Leadership goes beyond mere motivation and into the realm of non-human psychology.  Such troops are mighty heroes, insane berserkers, will-less robots, or mind-controlled insects.
Infantry models may have any of several special characteristics:
  • Toughness.  The model is tougher than a standard human.
  •  Armor.  The model wears personal armor that may deflect or absorb damage.
Special Characteristics have a rating.  A tough creature might be Toughness 1.  An even bigger one would be Toughness 2.  Etc.

Infantry models without special characteristics may be assumed to be human-equivalent, and wearing no appreciable body armor.

Geek Note

A model’s skill represents its ability to perform together with its squad at particular tasks.  So Ranged Skill doesn’t just rate the model’s ability to hit a bulls-eye; it represents the soldier’s behavior under fire, his coordination with his team-mates, knowledge of tactics, and all that big-picture stuff.  Melee Skill represents the unit’s ability to fight in formation, protect their squad-mates, predict the flow of melee, give covering fire with pistols, and so forth.  It’s not just a rating of their facility with a sword.

I intend to implement a system similar to Flames of War here.  In my opinion, Flames of War handles troop quality simply and brilliantly with its Skill and Motivation rating.  Two units with exactly the same equipment can vary enormously depending on their training.  This is in contrast to Warhammer 40k, where a model's skill doesn't matter much at all, and units are largely defined by their equipment options.

Toughness and Armor will be used to describe the better armored or super-human troops that are so much a part of so many space fantasy worlds. Queue the killer robots!

Dice Conventions

The game uses ordinary 6-sided dice.  Higher rolls are always better.

No result is ever certain.  Sometimes, modifiers may move the target number below 2 or above 6.  In this case, it is still possible to succeed or fail.  If the target number is 1+ or better, re-roll any 1s.  If the re-rolled result is also a 1, the roll fails.  If the target number is 7+, re-roll any sixes.  If the second result is also a six, it succeeds.

The only exception comes when rolling to-wound an armored vehicle.  You cannot harm a buttoned up tank, if you need a 7 or more.

Dice may only ever be re-rolled once.

Geek Notes

I considered using 10-sided dice, so that there could be a greater range of results.  However, a single 10-sided die does not really make the granularity much finer, 10% vs 12.33%. If I want a greater spread of possibility, I realized it is pretty easy to add additional rolls, rather than change the size of the die itself.  Gamers are used to 6-sided dice, and they like the feel of rolling great handfuls of them.  So why mess with success, if you don’t have to?

The double-ones and double-sixes rule opens up the scale of the dice, too.  This game will use a fair number of modifiers, and this allows us to deal with what happens when the modifiers pull the target number off either end of the scale.

I contemplated (but rejected) a more complex system in which it would matter how much more than 6 or how much below 2 your target fell, similar to what Warhammer uses for BS.  So a 7 would require a 6 and a 4+, an 8, a 6 and a 5+, a 9, a 6 and a 6, etc.  I imagine the casual gamer just doesn't want to think that hard.

Scale and Scope

This game is designed for play with 28mm space fantasy models.

It covers games from Platoon to Battalion-sized.  I’m assuming most games will be played at around Company size of 100 to 150 models.  (A bit bigger than an average Warhammer 40k game.)  I’m also assuming bigger is better, and gamers are going to want bigger forces more often than smaller ones.

Therefore the game is designed to be played on a big board.  You can use 4’ x 6’ for small games, but you will probably want most games on a 6’x 8’ an 8’ by 8’ table or larger.

Even with a big board, 28mm models are going to be at pretty close range, visually and practically.  There won’t be a lot of room for sweeping maneuvers or long-range tank duels.  So this is a game of close-in battle.  The forces involved are assumed to have already undertaken their preliminary dancing around and have closed in for a ghastly clash.  So the length of the battle will be shorter than that represented by a typical Flames of War game (which one can imagine representing a full day of battle) but probably a longer than that represented by a typical game of Warhammer 40k (which one can’t imagine being more than an hour of real combat).

The world represented is space fantasy, where soldiers, creatures and vehicles of wildly varying capabilities clash at rather unrealistic close quarters.  Although the combatants possess rapid-firing guns, melee weapons remain viable battle-field options.  We will assume that our little soldiers will spend most of the time shooting each other, but a bit of sword-play will happen too.  Some creatures will be noticeably tougher, better armored or otherwise superior to human beings, a fact which the mechanics will incorporate.  How (and how well) our toy soldiers fight should be as important to the game as their equipment.  Skill, leadership and doctrine will all play a major role.

Despite the advanced technology, squads will be organized and maneuver more or less like they did in the second World War.  Since tanks are ludicrously huge in 28mm, this will be primarily an infantry game, with armor in support.  Since our battlefield will appear quite small from the air, air (and space) power will play a minimal role.  We will also include rules for magical or quasi-magical powers.

I may at some point develop lists for use with models from particular universes, but the core rules assume a generic universe.