Monday, 9 May 2016

Elst (again)

I've been working on a set of WW2 rules to bridge the gap between battalion sized actions and full brigades. A lot of battles in the war resolved to a few battalions, too small for something like NATO Brigade Commander, but too big for Battlegroup or Combat 300 in the typical playing times we have on a club  night.

I'd worked them up into something playable after playtesting at home, the basic elements being strong vehicle platoons, and half rifle companies (so rifle companies have two stands, tank squadrons generally three). It included elements form a number of sets including the shock/suppression dice concept from 5 Core Brigade Commander, which I think is a really clever idea.

The main innovation was an action/reaction table along the line of Fire & Fury, with most 'morale' handled at element level but formation reactions handled by the  reaction table which included the ability to manouvre an enemy out of a position by outflanking etc.

I dragged out one of my standard test scenarios, the 43rd Div flanking attack on Elst on 23rd (?) September 1944. Two reinforced infantry battalions vs Kampfgruppe Knaust in the pouring rain.

Elst from the south, the main rail line to Arnhem on the right. The British have pushed up to the edge of the orchards around the town, while various Germans lurk within. A group of Panthers from 10th SS Panzer Div are vaguely visible in the town. The church tower provides observation over the area.

A squadron of 4/7 Dragoon Guards moves up to support the infantry attacking the west side of the village. The Shermans on the road to the left have been engaged and driven back by the Panthers.

In the south the flanking battalion and its accompanying Shermans run across Stug Brigade 280 lurking in a wood while Nebelwerfers stonk the infantry by the orchard.

While the photos look quite pretty, the playtest revealed quite a few creaky bits. The first thing to go was the formation reaction table which we kept forgetting to do and didn't seem to add much to the game (although it worked very well when I tried it at home!) and we had a frank exchange of views about the effectiveness (or not) of artillery fire. I don't think I explained very well the scale of the game, as at 1" = 75 yards even a full 25pdr regimental shoot is only going to cover about 6".

The scenario was probably  a bit over-complex too, with various complicated weather and ground conditions factors and some rather naff victory conditions which encouraged a-historical play. So, it isn't completely back to the drawing board as some things worked OK (modelling troop quality via saving throws worked, as did the non beaten zone approach to area fire) but some ruthless simplification is called for. First thing to go is the reaction table, I'll just rely on players being sensible instead, and next time we'll do a simple multiple battalion assault in nice sunny weather and not over ground which has been turned in to a swamp.

Well, that is the point of playtesting after all.


  1. Interesting and looks good. I do love the first playtest of home brew rules as things fall apart and new ideas spawn.

    You are about to get a million hits from avid ASL fans (Elst) :-)

  2. Frankly, I was surpised how badly it went. I'm usually pretty good at this sort of thing.

    Considerable tweaking has taken place and I'll run it out again in a couple of weeks.

  3. Any progress with the rules since 2016?