Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Spearhead - Winter Rules for normal and operational games

War in winter in WW2 can be split a number of locations and dates.  The depth of the Russian winter was a very different proposition to winter in Belgium and Holland.  Conditions differed significantly and at different times the Russians had significant technological advantage to deal with the cold weather which was eroded (but not necessarily overcome) by the Germans in the latter stages of the war.

However, there were simple truths which applied to winter no matter the theatre or year of conflict.  Roads were vital for movement of troops and vehicles - especially vehicles.  Trucks find it extremely difficult to move in terrain during winter unless along a road (and even then it was a trickier situation).  Snow and vehicle movement would create mud (unless in the extreme cold of a Russian winter on the steppe) which would slow wheeled vehicles to a virtual stop.

Tracked vehicles can cope with snowy conditions better - but thinner tracked tanks and ACV's struggled in deep snow compared to wider tracked vehicles (such as the T-34 and KV's in Russia).

The cold itself could prevent vehicles from moving at all - the German army in Russia always found this a problem but especially in the earlier part of the conflict.  Engines would have to be run constantly with commensurate usage of fuel which - if not replenished - could cause tanks to run out of fuel and also increasing general wear and tear on vehicles (exacerbated by cold conditions and mechanics with cold hands unable to service vehicles as effectively).

Air cover could be compromised by overcast conditions and / or heavy cloud cover (such as during snow showers).  Winter was not a good time for aircraft sorties as most were scrubbed unless clear conditions applied over the airstrip AND the target area.  Once in the air though, air attacks were as effective in winter as summer.

Artillery in the depths of winter could be made more effective as chunks of frozen earth could cause wounds at least as bad as metal shrapnel.  But this would apply mainly in extreme cold conditions.

Troop movement is more difficult in certain conditions (such as wading through deep snow) and certainly the cold in Russia adversely affected German combat efficiency (guns jamming due to the oil used on guns freezing in the cold and a marked reluctance to leave warm shelters for the bitter cold outside.  Command and control would also be affected by the cold (runners taking longer to pass messages, batteries in radios running down due to the cold etc.).

So what does the above suggest in terms of special rules for Winter?  Here's my take on things - but these are only suggestions.  Feel free to comment or suggest your own additions / amendments.

1. A new terrain feature denoted as 'deep snow'.  This may be known to the defender but not the attacker unless spotted by (i.e. encountered by) scouts - or known / unknown to both sides depending on scenario.  Once encountered the defender will lay out a terrain piece marking out the area of deep snow.  Deep snow is impassable to trucks, limits wide tracked AFV's movement by 50% and thin tracked vehicles by 75%.  Infantry movement is limited by 75%.  Deep snow can be encountered in ANY theatre in any year.

2. For normal winter movement reduce vehicle travel along roads by 2" regardless of theatre / year.  All offroad movement reduced by 4" for tracked vehicles (2" for wide tracked) and 6" for wheeled vehicles unless 'deep snow' (above).  Troops on foot move normally along roads but reduced by 2" off road unless 'deep snow'.  For semi-tracked vehicles, add 2" to the wheeled movement distances noted above.

Wooded areas are impassable to trucks and reduce all tracked vehicle movement by a further 4" in addition to restrictions above.

3. For German vehicles in Russia winters 41/42, 42/43 consider all AFV's as thin tracked and consider all Russian tanks as wide tracked (although some were not it accounts for Russian adaptation for winter conditions).  For 1943/44 and 1944/45 ALL German heavy tanks only are considered wide tracked.

4. For all German vehicles in all Russia winters  roll d6 for the initial movement of any vehicle that chooses to move (including reserves or off-table units at the start).  On a 6 that unit counts as 'stuck' - if off-table it does not come on table - if on-table it can fight but not move.  If it falls out of command radius it becomes suppressed.  This covers cold, maintenance and fuel shortages.

For the Western theatre roll 2d6.  An 11 or 12 had the same effect (i.e. fuel shortage) UNLESS the scenario dictates otherwise.

5. Unless the scenario dictates it, roll for weather conditions.  A 6 is clear conditions (all air assets available to both sides), a 5 is variable (50% of air assets) - any other roll means no air cover.

6. Artillery in Russian winters only - increase artillery effect (including mortars) against infantry in the open only by 1 (applies to both sides).

7. Russian infantry performance in winter to be increased by 1 for all years to reflect better ability to move and fight in extreme cold.

8. In Russia winters, Germans in 41/42 change orders on 4+, 42/43 change order on a 3+, 43/44 and 44/45  change orders on a 2+.


  1. They look really good. It would be interesting to try a series of operational games which progress from year to year - also try a 1939/40 winter war game where the Russians are very poor! Variable terrain might be a good rule for off terrain as well where units roll for effect each turn and therefore cannot calculate the effects of terrain with any certainty. Can't wait to try these rules out!

  2. Variable terrain could be fun!