Friday, 29 July 2016

Winter Rules revised

Its not France in 1940 that's for sure!

War in winter definitely gives a different challenge!  I have been working on scenery, troops and basic rules for warfare in winter in WW2.  We tested some elements of house rules last night and found them to be reflective of the challenges facing commanders during WW2 - notably struggling through the conditions.

The initial set of ideas I had were too complex and bitty.  We found that the idea of variable movement worked much better and reflected troops coming across deep snow or hard packed ground.  Each time a battalion wanted to move, they rolled a d6.  The lower the score, the lower the movement (see below).  In playtesting, we found that vehicles stayed to the roads as long as possible as straying into the countryside had a big effect on movement.  Russ had Tiger tanks which only move 6" per turn in good conditions.  Rolling low on the movement dice meant that they never managed to get into combat at all.  Similarly an American flank attack similarly stalled to a crawl allowing the German defenders to pivot around and face the oncoming threat which they would not have been able to do in 'normal' circumstances.

As vehicles are forced onto the road, they become easier targets for aircraft (all nicely lined up!) but we also felt that a simple weather rule (a d6 rolled at the start of the game) would determine the prevailing conditions in the battle area and could have a profound effect on the battle (for example heavy snow hampers movement and spotting - so a dug-in defender may find his job easier as the enemy blunders upon them.

I also wanted to balance things up to offset the power of the German army in Spearhead.  Certainly in the non-winter months the Germans dominated the battlefield until late in the war.  However, I wanted to give advantages back to the Russians when General Winter was in charge.  This is done is subtle ways.  Russian tanks were generally better suited to harsh winter conditions so they get a +1 on variable movement dice rolls,  That can make a big difference - especially in the event of heavy snow hampering their opponents movement.  

Similarly as the Russians operated better in winter conditions, their opponents (indeed all armies apart from the Soviets) add a +1 to their dice roll for order changes,  So the Germans (who normally need anything but a 1 on a d6 to change orders now need 3+ to change).  The Russians are still difficult to get order changes for but now Germans become harder to control.

Wooded areas and hills are much more difficult to traverse so for wheeled and half-tracked vehicles they become no-go areas.  This means the larger guns cannot be deployed in the woods as normal but out in the open (as they must be dragged along by a towing vehicle).  This provides a headache for commanders who normally place their big guns on hills or in the woods.

Ski troops can move normal speed everywhere - making them a potential game-winner.  They can only be 'spotted' at 3" and get first shot (SMG armed) meaning they can swish around the battlefield at will and cause mayhem in the opposition ranks before swooshing off again.

The other balancing element for the Russians relates to air assets.  Based on the profligacy with men and machines that WW2 Russian generals were renowned, they took risks that no Western general would take with their personnel.  For aircraft, I generally allowed Russian aircraft to be more willing to fly in conditions that would ground Western aircraft.  So if cloudy, German (and Allied) aircraft will not fly but for the Russians 50% of their allotted aircraft are still available,  This may encourage Russian commanders to allocate more points to air assets and risk them in the hope of catching a column of German tanks rolling down the road.

Anyway - below are the house rules (simplified) for Spearhead but are easily adaptable to any rules system for WW2.

1. Variable movement.  In the event of movement each battallion rolls a D6 in the movement phase. 1-2 = 33% (1/3) movement, 3-4 = 66% (2/3) movement, 5-6 = normal movement.  All movement on roads is normal movement.  

2. Russians get +1 on movement rolls (all theatres, all years).

3. Wooded areas are impassable to trucks and half-tracks and reduce all tracked vehicle movement by 50% when in / touching a wood.

4. Wheeled and half-tracked vehicles on hills move at 1/2 speed AFTER the variable roll above is made (e.g. normal movement is 12" but roll 2 on a d6 for battalion movement = 4".  Then halve that for movement on a hill = 2").

4. Order changes - all combatant nations EXCEPT Russians add +1 to the required die roll (representing adaptability to winter conditions).

5. Weather (optional) : roll for weather conditions on a d6.  

   6 is clear (all air assets available) 
   5 is variable (50% air assets available to all countries except Russians. 100% Russian air assets only), 
   4-1 means poor weather so no air cover except Russians - 50% air assets (see below) but affects spotting and movement)

   4 - low cloud - does not affect ground visibility. Russian air assets 50%, all other 0% 
   3- misty - spotting reduced by 3". 0% Russian air assets..
   2 - heavy snow - spotting reduced by 3" and all movement dice at -1
   1 - fog - spotting reduced by 6" and all movement dice by -1

6. Ski troops - can only be spotted at 3" (as per recon) and have no movement restrictions.  

We will try these out more fully in the next couple of weeks and I'll report back on how they play out.


  1. I wouldn't worry about the woods - wheeled units are already heavily penalised and on a 1 or 2 are virtually stranded! I'm looking forward to trying out all the other ideas in a game.

  2. I thought the rules worked out well and will add a real twist to any games we play