Monday, October 29, 2012

Mars: The Colonial Infantry Overview

An Overview of the Colonial Infantry

It's time to continue with my sample setting, this time taking my general notes and creating the framework of a real army list.  I think the Colonial forces will be the most illustrative army with which to start, since they are composed of normal humans and follow a (quasi) historical military organization.

First, let us consider how our game play will affect what sorts of military organizations we can represent. Our game is going to be mostly an infantry game: at 28mm, the models are simply too damned big to support a good tank game. We might eventually be able to squeeze in a mechanized or cavalry force for variety, but for now let's stick with mostly foot-slogging infantry.

My list will follow the organization of a typical European Infantry battalion/company/platoon from the interwar period or early part of WWII.

I want it to be able to represent anything from a platoon to a battalion. Given the size of a typical gaming board (usually 4'x6'), a company is about right for most games. If we can get a hold of a really big table, we might be able to field a battalion. Sometimes people like to play small games, so a platoon-level game should be an option too. 

I also want my force to be heavily supported. Many of our favorite toys (like tanks) aren't integral parts of most infantry companies or battalions, but we want to play with them anyway. So lots of support - perhaps even ludicrous levels of support.

Squad, Platoon, Company and Battalion


Let's turn to the actual historical organization of infantry forces in WWII, starting with the squad and working our way up.  (If you're interested, Osprey's Infantry Tactics of the Second World War on my lap as I write.)

Most armies in WWI fielded squads ("sections" in British parlance) of eight to twelve men.  Several of the men (usually two) would carry and field a light machine-gun.  The squad leader, typically some variety of Sergeant, might carry a pistol, carbine or sub-machine-gun. Everyone else had a rifle.  The LMG provided most of the squad's firepower, not the rifles.

There were variations, of course.  Fortunately well-armed German squads might have more than one LMG, while US forces often lacked the LMG altogether.

But this will be good for going on with.  Squads will be our basic unit, with 1 leader, 5-9 riflemen, and 2 machine-gunners mounted together on a base.

A Platoon typically consisted of three squads, a command squad, and a small number of support weapons.   The command squad usually had a leader (typically a Lieutenant or a higher variety of Sergeant) and a few other men.  In the early war, the support elements would often include a 2-inch (or 51mm or 60mm) light mortar team of three men, and sometimes an anti-tank rifle of two.  Some armies might have an extra LMG or pair of LMGs.

For our purposes, we will give every Platoon a unit consisting of a Lieutenant and four riflemen.  It must then take at least two and up to three squads.

Support weapons will be optional, with each team mounted together on a base.  They may form units of their own, or they may be attached to one of the squads in the platoon. 


A Company typically consisted of three platoons, a command squad, and possibly a forth weapons platoon or squad consisting of bigger, meaner support weapons, typically machine-guns. 

As with out Platoon, we will give the company a two command squads consisting of a Leader and five men. One such command squad will be the Captain, the second a Lieutenant. It must then take at least two, and up to three platoons.

Support weapons will be optional, with each team mounted together on a base.  They may form units of their own, or they may be attached to one of the squads in the company. 


A Battalion in turn consisted a command squad, three companies of riflemen, and even more support weapons.  Often these weapons were grouped into their own weapon's company.

We will give the Battalion two command squads consisting of a Leader and five men. One such command squad will be the Lieutenant Colonel, the second a Major. It must then take at least two, and up to three Companies.

Support weapons will be optional, with each team mounted together on a base.  They may form units of their own, or they may be attached to one of the squads in the battalion

Attachments and Assignments

With many weapons, the player has a choice whether to deploy them as separate units, or to attach them to other squads in the chain of command.  (At the start of the game.)  We will use the term attach to mean that the weapons leave their original unit and become a part of their new unit for all purposes for the rest of the game.

We will use the term assign to indicate that these units are temporarily a part of a Leader's chain of command.  Usually they will fall directly under the force's leader, but a Lieutenant-Colonel, a Captain or a Lieutenant may have the opportunity to further assign an asset farther down the chain of command.

Assigned assets may also sometimes be attached to a unit.  For example, a Captain may attach some HMGs to a particular squad.

Core and Support

We will divide our units into two types.  Those that are a normal part of the formation will be called Core.  Those that come from elsewhere we will call Support.

Each level of force (Platoon, Company and Battalion) will automatically include any integral assets for that level as part of its Core.  It will also have a list of external Support choices that it can take.  This list will always include choices from immediately above it in the chain of command, as well as other choices from father away.  The number of choices and the variety of equipment will increase at each level.

When building a force, you may only choose Support Choices from the highest level of your command.  For example, a Battalion level force chooses from the Battalion Support Choices.  It may NOT also make selections from the list of Company Support Choices or Platoon Support Choices for each of its Companies and Platoons.  The Battalion Support Choices include all total available Support for the force.  If the Battalion leader wants one of his Companies to have some support, he will have to assign it downward to his subordinates.

How Much Support?

There's a limit to the number of goodies any force should have, in particular the number of vehicles.  After playing FoW for many years, I can attest that tanks are the most important form of support for an infantry company.  Since most infantry are nearly helpless against the metal beasts, even a few armored cars can bring an infantry advance to a halt.  Often FoW games turn into a vehicular duel, with the winner is then free to mop up enemy infantry at his leisure. 

So how much stuff is too much?

At the Company level, I envision the following limits to Support:

0-1 Howitzer Batteries
0-2 Anti-Infantry Weapons (Mortars or HMGS) 
0-2 Anti-tank Gun Batteries
0-1 Light Vehicle squads (such as armored cars)
0-1 Tank squads

By limiting tanks to one unit, we prevent a strong attack or defense on two flanks simultaneously.  Our battlefield will thus be inherently asymmetrical.

At the Platoon level, things should be even more limited.  After all, the point is to keep the game small.

0-1 Anti-Infantry Weapons (Mortars or HMGS)
0-1 Anti-Tank Gun Batteries
0-1 Light Vehicle squads OR 1 Tank

At a Battalion level, I'm inclined to take the lid off.  aAfter all, the point of a Battalion level battle is to field lots of toys.

0-2 Howitzer Batteries
0-3 Squads of Tanks
0-1 Company of Vehicles

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