Friday, June 15, 2007


The rules I use are a home-brew 1:5 (approx platoon scale) microarmor rules. Called DSRWW2 Microarmor (Don's Stupid Rules for World War 2 Microarmor). The scale is about 100 yards a hex, each turn about 5 minutes. The rules are pretty comprehensive, covering most of the major aspects of the war and since I wrote them, they are easy for me to answer rules questions etc.

Over the years, the rules have mutated a bit, becoming more heavily infantry-centric (in general, there is usually more infantry/non-microarmor on the table than microarmor). To get all that infantry/Guns on-board, I created double-sided counters for them. Being an old ASLer, I used many concepts from those rules, so some of the abbreviations, etc should be familiar to any ASLer. For those not indoctrinated in the cult that is Advanced Squad Leader, some of the terms are defined below:

  • SMC Single Man Counter- Used to represent a leader and his HQ staff. In general, cannot exist unless stacked with an MMC.
  • MMC Multi-Man counter- Used to represent a group of about platoon size. Also used to represent special weapon groups (MMG, Flamethrowers, etc).
  • GUN- A generic term for any non-vehicle weapon that requires a crew. (note this is not on the picture I posted, as at the time I made that diagram, I had integral crews for the guns).
  • Vehicle- anything that was a micro-armor figure.

The basic unit size used would in general be a battalion, but sometimes companies are used. An example of the TO&E I use is to the left. As for nationality flavor, the Germans have more leadership (enabling them to do more things and respond to adversity better) than the Soviets. The Soviets are better in close combat than the Germans, so usually want to get as close to them as possible and not engage in long-range firefights.

For the game I will be using off-board artillery (and some Stukas for the Germans). There will be some on-board guns though, but other than the mortars, will be for direct fire only. Snipers will become available to purchase as the game goes on, as will fortifications, and special units (SMG battalions, Engineers, etc) to supplement the basic reinforcements each side will recieve (usually infantry battalions).

At the conclusion of each campaing turn, there is a consolidation process that will occur for each side. As battalions get whittled down, there is an amalgamation that occurs that will try to consilidate units into a more homogenous whole. There are some simple unit cohesion rules that apply (like calling in support fire from a different regiment's battalion's mortars is at a penalty).

The map

I came up with this map design to give me a representational Stalingrad-like feel to it. I wanted areas outside of the city to be represented as well. I labeled points of interest as well as the factories themselves to provide a more interesting way of being able to describe the action in my After Action Reports.

Each terrain type has combat properties (such as its effect modifier vs direct fire, indirect fire), Line of Sight (such as a hinderance, blocking etc), Movement costs, and how easy it is to rubble/set on fire. Multiple leveled building hexes are designated by changing the hex center dot to a white heavy circle.

I envision a series of scenarios, each building (pun intended as this is a Stalingrad-esque game !) upon the last one, where a campaign turn is a single gaming session. Between campaign turns events happen and reinforcements are brought up. A game turn is a of variable length (generally 5-9 turns). There are 3 campaign turns per day (2 daylight, 1 nighttime). Not all turns will see action, as reinforcement points are used to purchase additional units. In general, night-time will be a general reinforement time, although Soviet counter-attacks will generally occur at this time as well.

The game kicks off with a scenario with a German Panzer Grendier Battalion with support coming up against elements of workers' militia around the area of the state farms to the top of the map (West in directional terms). Scattered amongst the defenders are the remnants of some units that were crushed in the crossing of the Don and fled to the city.

The 1st turn is where the Germans determine where their main point of attack is going to be. They don't have enough to advance on a broad front so must choose where they want to concentrate their forces.

The Left flank is somewhat open, with easier terrain, but jumping the rail line will be difficult without capturing the Grain Elevator first. The advantage is that isolating the city from this flank will cut down on reinforcement points the Soviets will otherwise put to good use.

A punch up the center comes up against the most city areas, which the Panzergrendiers (who will be withdrawn in a few campaign turns anyway to help cover the vast flanks further off-map) won't want to get into an attritional battle this will entail. As these units play an important part in helping keep the Germans from being cut off from Soviet counter-attacks offboard to the North and South (yet another scenario or two I'll "link" with this game), these forces must not suffer needless losses.

A thrust against the right flank encounters the stream and Hill 245, as well as the suburb of Spartakovka. The advantage is that getting across the rail lines into the factory complex is easier here, as is the ability to cut off reinforcement points (the road and the dock at Spartakovka).

All in all, the Germans have quite a task set before them. They'll have to make some tough choices that will have ramifications that will become apparent the further the game progresses.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Since this was a Stalingrad map, I figured I'd need boatloads of buildings. I use Microsoft Visio mainly for my maps (although Microsoft Powerpoint can work in a pinch for unit counters, markers, etc).

Instead of creating a few and shading them by hand via a macro I wrote to shade shapes (like the ones in my title bitmap) which is tedious, I chose to create SMART buildings that would shade themselves based on what angle they were. Why, you ask ? Because I'm a glutton for punishment of course ! Besides, that way I could create a single building that could be placed in one of 12 possible directions with the shading handled automatically.

For the buildings themselves, I have 3 basic building types for terrain purposes (Thatch, Wooden, Stone). With just a few buildings of each type, I could create an impressive number of buildings "on map". The rules take into account such things as multiple story buildings, rubble, and fire, each of which basic type behaves differently. Also, there are special building types (e.g. Factory) that have special properties of their own.

For my shading, I convert the RGB color to HSL colors, so I can play with the luminosity for how "bright" the shade will be (the macro already does this and allows me to increment the Luminosity by a fixed amount). I determined that the "sun" was coming from the upper left corner or approximately thereof. From this I base all my shading.

The end result was quite pleasing. The example is a simple building I can lay down in position 1 (Due North) and rotate in 30 degree increments. I did the same thing for my wooden buildings and my thatch ones as well.

But a Stalingrad type map would be nothing without some factories. So I made a few "smart" factories as well. To the left is a few examples, from a grain elevator, to a massive indstrial complex. One of the true beauties of the macros is that all I have to do to re-color the image is to give them new HSL values and pivot them to the right direction and the shading and colors are correct.

Next up: The map itself.

Next Up: Stalingrad

Since I sometimes have the attention span of a 2-year old on a steady diet of Mountain Dew and Pixie Stix, I'm already starting another project. I will put my 1:1 skirmish game aside for the time being and concentrate on a platoon-size (roughly 1 AFV = 5 vehicles, 1 infantry unit about a platoon, scale is about 100 yards per hex) Stalingrad scenario.

Why Stalingrad ? Well, first I've always been fascinated by the battle itself (as in the Eastern Front in general). Second, I recently finished Island of Fire By Jason D. Mark (available from - a truly excellent book. And third, I've got a set of platoon size micro-armor rules I've used over the years which is heavily infantry-centric that allows me to maneuver infantry battalions around. All this seems to fit the bill for a Stalingrad- type scenario.

I need a Stalingrad-type map, so I'll stick to the ubiquitous 40" x 40" map and use 1.5" hexes, which gives me a scaled space of about 1.8 miles x 1.5 miles. I started a project a while ago to map Stalingrad on that scale, and I've completed one map (Spartakovka in the north of the city using symbols like the ones in the title) so I have some of the terrain already made up. But I can do better. So first up is to polish up my terrain I'll print out on the map.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

The Game

The Situation: Eastern Poland, June 30th, 1941

German: Our attack on the Soviet Union has been successful. However, Soviet pockets of isolated in the 1st days are attempting to break through back to their own lines. You are charged with beating back these groups until stronger forces can be released from the front to deal with them. Hold your positions ! In no event should the enemy be allowed to break through your front and infiltrate back to his own lines.

Forces: 7 rifle. 2 SMG, 1 LMG

Russian: The Revolution is under attack by the Facist dogs ! We must resist them to our last breath, Comrades ! By suprise and deceit we have been isolated behind enemy lines. Our mission from the High Command is to rejoin our brethren further East and defeat the Facist invaders. Let not one stand in your way ! We travel light and fast. DEATH TO THE FACISTS.....

Forces: 18 Rifle, SMG, LMG

The Course of the battle:

The Germans set up in 3 groups: LMG and rifleman and two groups of 3 riflemen and an SMG. The LMG set up at the top of the map, covering the widest area.
The Russians came on in three groups, with the largest in the center and the LMG in a group of riflemen at the bottom of the picture. The plan was to use the LMG group to provide covering fire while the other groups forded the stream.

The Germans rolled well on their command chart (getting 2 "F"s and 1 "A"). They concentrated fire on the LMG group, as they were the only visible one and managed to pin them all then force the rest to panic, all except the lone Russian LMG.
The Russians struggled across the stream unmolested, as the Germans appeared to have been so elated at wiping out one of the most dangerous Russian groups (German command rolls were atrocious). The Russian LMG re-united with what was the center group and formed a large, dangerous fire group. It looked as if the Gods of Chance had failed the Germans, who managed to jam their LMG during some of the most innefectual firing ever seen on the Eastern Front !
Unhurt, the Russian fire group commenced to putting a hurting on the German LMG group, wiping it out. I addition, the other Russian maneuver group started to get in position to flank the middle German group by positioning itself to make an end-run around the position recently vacated by the German LMG group to grab one of the victory buildings.
The one bright spot is that the Germans managed to extricate themselves and the LMG (which was dropped in the hex where its operator died) into a secondary line of resistance (they seemed to exlusively wind up with "M" rolls). To boot, one of the SMGs becomes hero-ized (Snake Eyes on a Morale Check) which increases his freedom of action and makes him fire more effectively.

With a presence in the two closest buildings and a flanking LMG, the German position was not totally hopeless, but the Russians were closing in fast with 2 groups that would not be afraid to get into melee to grab those victory buildings (indeed, with my rules the Russians melee better than the Germans and encourages such behavior. Call it unfair or "gamey", it still adds flavor to the game).
With the Russians poised in the center position to sieze at least one of the victory buildings, the Germans find their courage (and ammo) and begin to whittle the Russian groups down (pinning them effectively). Meanwhile the German LMG, having channeled the Russians into the center of the woods, maneuvers towards the hedge in order to be able to provide support fire if they Germans lose the center building.
The Russians begin suffering from bad command rolls now, managing to just rally enough pinned troops from losing them to panic, but unable to mount an effective attack of their own. (An "F" command is required to enter into melee, unless a hero is present in the same hex).
But German ammo appears to become scarce, and the fire slackens enough for the Russians to attempt to enter into melee with the center building. Inside the Hero SMG and rifleman blaze away like madmen at the incoming horde of brown. The Hero manages to kill 2 and pin all but one of the others. That one Russian enters into melee and kills the rifleman, but is promptly killed by the Hero. That SMG Hero will be mentioned in dispatches for sure if he and his compatriots survive this day ! The German group in the other ruined house finishes the job on those who didn't make it into melee, panicing them all. Suddenly, what looked like a near sure thing is looking quite dicey for the remaining Russian group (which is near its break point)
The Russians seem to have lost their nerve seeing their compatriots gunned down and scattered. Their fire is inneffectual. On the German side, the LMG has entered the house and with the Hero, lays down a large quantity of fire on the last Russian group. Fire from the other ruined house panics the last Russians.

The Russians have had enough. They finally reach their break point and the scenario is over. Final losses:
Russian: 7 killed, 13 paniced
German: 3 killed, 1 Paniced

Overall Battle Commentary:
  1. The Russian plan was fine, as far as it went. They are hard to maneuver around the board, and tend to do so in large groups (which also makes a large target). These large groups can be effective firing, but the Russians cannot always manage to out-gun the Germans due to command constraints.
  2. Without the German Hero in the center building, the Russians would have taken it easily, and with it the center of the German position and probably the game as well.
  3. The German LMG was effective as a firer only on the 1st turn of the game, after which it jammed and its operator killed. It was re-aquired, and even though it never fired a shot the rest of the game, it channeled the Russians into the center wood by holding the German right flank. Sometimes just the threat of a weapon is enough for it to influence a battle.
  4. The Germans may have fallen back too hastily, but considering their command rolls (lots of "M"s) they were not firing very effectively at that point anyway. Once they fell back to the houses they seemed to get in sync and managed to lay down effective fire that kept the Russians from overwhelming the center house.
  5. All in all, an enjoyable game. It lasted 12 turns (3 scale minutes) and played in less than 1 hour. I think my rules would work well at a convention......
One of my current projects is a 15mm WW2 skirmish level game. I was always fascinated with early-war WW2. I had a few German and Soviet 15mm figures, trees and ruined buildings that I stumbled upon while tinkering with another project. I also had some vehicles and some French figures as well. I figured it was high time to start using them !

First, using a program I created for Microsoft Visio, I printed a simple grid of 3.5" hexes with a road grid and stream on a 40" x 48" page.(The red road comes out a good brownish color when printed out on my plotter). I didn't color the background because I was trying to save on ink, and, as this was a prototype game I was playing, a polished product was not neccesary at this time (plus I wanted to get to trying to game as quickly as possible).

Why 3.5" hexes ? The program I use can use any size hex from 0.25" to 30" and every size in between. After some experimentation, 3.5" seemed to fit the figures well, and my houses fit in a single hex. (one of my cardinal rules for making games is use what you have on hand, not what you may have later- or you will never get done with it !)

My figures needed bases, so I printed a some out of stiff card, along with an ID# and the primary weapon type. The Germans have 8 rifle, 2 SMG, and an LMG (which needs a crewman in order to fire at full effect). The Russians have 18 stout riflemen, 1 SMG and LMG (DPS "record player"- no crewmember to fire effectively but not as effective as the German MG34)

As for rules, I created some from scratch (its a sickness I have, really !). I won't get into all the details here, but in general:

  1. One hex = 10 yards
  2. One turn approx 30 seconds.
  3. It uses alternating moves.
  4. Each side is limited in actions to what it can do each turn. The Germans are more flexible than the Russians, as the Russians have to group into fewer groups in order to get things done. In general, the Germans tend to recieve more orders. Orders range from an emphasis on "F"ire, and "M"ove to what is a minimal order ("X") and an "A"ny order (which allows the player to pick "F" or "M").
  5. Infantry when fired on can either be Unaffected, Forced to take a Morale Check, or killed. If they fail their morale check, they become pinned (and can only attempt a rally action). If a pinned figure fails its MC, it is considered to have paniced (and is out of battle, counting as dead for VP purposes, but available for future battles). NOTE: I tend to like to fight scenarios that are "linked". This means that forces from this scenario can be brought to bear in the next one. If a side wins a phyrric victory, it is sure to have problems in a the next scenario.
  6. The scenario at hand begins with the Germans setting up hidden (using the hex IDs I'd conviently printed with the grid) and the Russians coming from across the stream as their 1st turn (all with an "M" order). After the Russian turn 1st, all Germans would be placed on the board and the turn sequence is normal (the # and types of orders are determined by the rules).

This was the map. A few words to clarify the map a bit. The woods come in two types- light and heavy. For infantry they act the same (and their cover is considered the same). For vehicles (I have vehicle rules to but they are not part of this scenario) they cannot enter heavy woods and have a chance of bogging down going through light woods.

Moving on the dirt road has no effect at this scale as opposed to moving in open ground since the weather is considered fine. The stream is fordable but at a cost, except at the roads which are shallow fords. Also the trees shed a lot. so those clumps of green are just the fallout and not blemishes on the picture :).

Also, let me apologize for the unpainted buildings. For some that is a no-no but since this was a friendly game for some close friends, I think they would overlook that little detail. I tend to use games put on at conventions to "motivate" me to finish painting stuff. Since I'd just recently pulled this stuff out of mothballs, it is in the condition you see before you.

For my next post- the setup and play of the scenario itself !

I would like to welcome you to my wargaming blog. Over the next few weeks I will be posting games and projects that are ongoing. Comments/Suggestions are always appreciated.