16 Jul 2016

WW1 Skirmish Rules: Playtest 2

Hi guys,

I'm really fired up about this project (could be the speed with which I set up my board he he), so there's little reason not to play another test game! It was actually played a few days ago, right after I've implemented changes from the last game.

This time, I decided to make things a bit different, a combined arms assault force is to raid the enemy trenches, destroy the defender's machine gun and then make a hasty retreat!

The size of forces was rolled with same idea (D6+4 for infantry, D3+2 for support weapons) and I decided to include some new weapons to see how they would fare.

Assault squad - 8 bombers (SAF)
Assault squad - 8 bombers (SAF)

*They can not use rifles, but are armed with pistols and truncheons/knives. Last game I played it wrongly, these are the only troops that can throw grenades before the assault!

LMG Squad - 5 crew (East German)
Rifle Grenade Squad - 4 crew (East German)

THE PROBLEM: LMG I have to work on. Instead of being an "automatic rifle", it is same as HMG, except it has 3/4 ROF and does not have minimum range. That is not good and when writing the rules I imagined it more as of another rifleman. That would either mean I need to greatly cut its power, or put them in their own teams, where - again - only the LMG could fire, while the rest of the team is there to feed the machine gun. That might look like an awful lot of spare figures for "no" gain, but I kind of like where this is going.

THE PROBLEM: Same goes for Rifle grenades, how many per squad? Largest squad size for them would be 6 (using support weapons roll), so maybe limit them to every second person. But that's a lot of book keeping all of the sudden. I played it this time that only 2 can have them, the rest are spare men.
In general, I think I started the game too simple - with most of teams having same weapons. This should change (in modern fire teams, for example, each miniature has its own kind of weapon!), so even asassault teams would perhaps only have 2 bombers, as opposed to everyone throwing all the time etc.


HMG Squad (also objective) - 5 crew (Rebels)
Infantry Squad - 5 rifles
Infantry Squad - 10 rifles
Infantry Squad - 7 rifles


Defender's HMG Squad starts in its emplacement, 10 rifles are reserve, 7 and 5 in dug-outs.

Attackers I deployed up to 12" from their table edge. Rifle grenades are pretty much in place, while LMG squad will move up shell holes to support the advance of the bombers.


Turn 1:

Attackers won the initiative.

Att Bombers1 (in sap) activate and sprint down the sap.
Att Bomber2 (with rifle-grenades) activate and sprint towards defender's D outpost.

Def MG reacted on their movement with fire. From last game, I decided all the fire is done against the end position of the unit that moved. MG can only fire at the bombers that didn't make it to the sap and took cover in a shell hole. They scored 2 hits, but didn't kill anyone.

Att Rifle Grenades fail to activate.

Def MG fails to activate.
Def 7 rifles activate and sprint out of dug-out to offer the MG some protection.

Att Rifle Grenades react and fire their rifles at Def 7, killing one.

Def 5 rifles activate and run towards fire trenches.

Att LMG team fails to activate.

Turn 2:

Defender's reserves aren't coming yet.

Defenders win the initiative (with a roll of 2!)

Def MG activates and opens fire on bombers, killing one.
Def 7 rifles activate and open fire on the same bombers, with little effect.
Def 5 rifles fail to activate.

Att Rifle Grenades activate and open fire at the machine-gun. So, that means 2 grenades (3 dice each), that ignore concealment (blast radious), but not cover (trenches are dug too well for grenades to have impact on cover, but larger field artillery would be destroying cover). They scored 3 hits, killing the gunner (but a spare man gets removed, as he would simply take gunner's place).

Att LMG fails to activate.
Att Bombers2 activate and push forward down the trench. As they moved down a very deep communication trench, their grenading was not accurate (I decided throwing grenade out of LOS is at -2 penalty).
Att Bombers1 activate and push out of the sap towards enemy trench, while bombing the enemy. Here, I wasn't sure how to establish LOS, Bombers are on ground, but defenders are deep in trenches. As Bombers aren't just next to trench, I played it as if they can't see anyone (I think that's fair and very simple, too). They threw bucket load of grenades, managed to get one hit but didn't kill anyone (because of -2 to hit when blindly throwing grenades!).
Bombers1 rushing the trench

THE PROBLEM: I think I really need some sort of penalty for climbing out of 2+ meters deep trenches. The simplest way I can think of is a restriction to "Walk" (so can't run out of trench), but I would not restrict firing, as to keep things very simple. Defenders sprinted out of their deep dug outs into the land, but I won't be doing that anymore I think.

Turn 3:
Defender's reserves are still nowhere to be found.

Defenders win initiative (again with a roll of 2!)

Def MG activates and unleashes fury at Bombers2, scoring 5 hits and suppressing them. Guys had no chance in the shallow hole and lost 4 of their men.
Def 5 rifles failed to activate, which is really unfortunate, seeing they could destroy the Bombers.

THE PROBLEM: MG fired across the barbed wire (granting +1 concealment) and into shell hole (granting +1 concealment). Should this be cumulative? I am not sure on this one. It could quickly get out of hand, but  it could also help in crossing the no-mans-land. I did not add it this time, but will probably do so next time.

Att Rifle Grenades activated, fired at the MG but again done little because of the safety the MG emplacement provides.
Att LMG Squad activates, moves into position and the crew fires its rifles at Def 7 rifles, killing one.

THE PROBLEM: The LMG in this instance is a support weapon, so can't fire on the go. That's really unfortunate, but given its firepower, probably quite fair. I will sit down and think about having 2 separate classes for MG08/15 and Lewis guns and alike. They are very, very different, but I also enjoy the simplicity of having them all treated the same.
Another reason for two classes is that this would then give at least a slight flavour to fielding different nations.

Att Bombers2 activate, but can not charge the MG, because there's an intact wire infront of the emplacement (What a great idea it was, putting that there!), so they move down the trench, still throwing grenades in general direction of the MG crew.
That is 7 grenades (21 dice, there's a lot of dice in my game!), that managed to score 4 hits, but failed to kill anyone!
Att Bombers1 were activated when they were suppressed.
Bombers2 advance towards the machine gun

Turn 4:

At this point, I remembered I have a rule that failed activation within 6" of an Enemy makes unit Surrender. This is now changed to 6" AND in LOS, because trenches are very close to each other and it would be sad to lose a whole unit of bombers to MG crew just because they'd fail to activate!

Still no reserves for the defending side.

After two ties, Defending team wins the initiative again!

Def MG fails to activate.

Att Bombers2 activate, but to try out their fancy CCB equipment, they assault the MG without prior bombing.

THE PROBLEM: The assault was a bit of a moot-point, some parts of Bombers assaulted the crew from out of LOS (thus putting them at a distinct advantage), but some did not, so I ignored that. I believe the bonus should only count when whole units are jumped like that, even if one man stands in the open, he could warn the rest of the incoming assault.

THE PROBLEM: MG failed to activate and was so on guard. This means, it would be able to fire its pistol (gunner) and rifles (the rest) as a reaction to the movement. I threw the dice and it would wipe out three bombers. I don't think that is quite fair, and two things can be done: Reaction only counts for movement (not assaults) or - preferred reaction - the fire is done at -2 because of the surprise and urgency of the Assault. This is how I played it.

The reaction fire of MG crew failed to achieve anything (but keep in mind any hit would result in a dead man now!) and the close combat began.
Small fire arms (pistols, revolvers, but also shotguns and SMGs) give no bonus to hit in melee, but they roll to hit first (opposed to simultaneously as knives, bayonets etc). The drawback is, they only do that on first round (this is justified with brawlers being too entangled for fire arms to give any distinct advantage afterwards). This wiped out MG crew, destroying it.

THE PROBLEM: Melee was very successful for bombers, but would leave them in the open, where they attacked from the ground down. This is unjustified, so after melee is done, winners will be given 1" of free move to consolidate their position - jump in the trench or cover.

Att Bombers1 activated and decided to assault Def 5 rifles. (that's an unnecessary move, as MG was destroyed, but hey - can test melee again!). Their grenade salvo was uneffective, but the scored 2 hits with their pistols. This left only one defender to fight back (because the rest are not in contact!), who scored a hit.

Melee will need much, much more testing to decide when do fighters move in contact, who all can hit (just those in base-to base?) and so on. I will probably be doing that next, without playing a game.

Att LMG crew opens fire at Def 7 rifles, but does nothing.
Att Rifle Grenades do the same, scoring a kill.

Def 7 rifles fail to activate.

Turn 5:

Melee that was not resolved before is fought again as both sides activated. This time, bombers are using their knives and truncheons, giving them some advantage over bayonet armed defenders. Bombers scored one hit, while the defenders were unable to hit anyone.

Defender's reserves arrive (counts as activation, too) and move to the back-line fire trench. They opened fire at Att LMG, killing one of the crewmen!

Attackers won the initiative.

THE PROBLEM: Reserves arrived and could open fire before attackers could react, even if they won the initiative. This should perhaps be changed so that reserves are rolled for as an activation. But that, I am afraid, would lead to forgetting about reserves, plus when battle is raging the arriving reinforcements surely enjoy some degree of surprise.

Att Bombers2 activate and instead of retreating (as per scenario idea), they go assault some more (for the sake of testing, of course!). They must have been really tired, as they scored no hits with their pistols! The defenders were better at this game and scored two hits on the attackers.
Bombers apparently fired their pistols with their eyes closed!

Att  LMG failed to activate.
Att Rifle Grenades did activate, also scored 3 hits but failed to kill any of Def 10 rifles!

Turn 6:

The fight between Def 5 rifles and Bombers1 continued as both units activated again. Also, Defenders were again better in the fight (there must be some martial arts in these units!), killing 2 and losing 1 of their own.

A never ending street fight in the front line trench!
Fight between Bombers2 and Def7 was less eventful, as the former failed to activate and gave up!

Defenders then won the initiative again and victorious Def 7 rifles activated, just to fail to do any damage to the att LMG.
Def 10 rifles failed to activate.

Att Rifle grenades activated again, killing one in Def 7's team, but Att LMG failed to activate again.

At this point I quit playing, but I gave the melee between sole survivors of Bombers1 and Def5 another try. They both activated again, but neither scored a hit!

It did show that 'elite' Assault troops are still just men and can be beaten, which I am very satisfied with, so there are no super heroes here.


This really took a turn for the worst as far as the attackers go! There were less problems than in the first game, so the progress is visible, but there is a lot to be done with the weapons and scenarios. In this particular scenario idea, the attackers ought to retreat as soon as their mission was done and defenders would have to somehow score points for prisoners taken and damage inflicted, to lessen the extent of victory of the attackers.

The main change that I see necessary is to slightly limit the dice used - I don't mind using buckets and I don't know why people do. I am awful with numbers and probabilities, so I do it all by the "feels", and I get a strange feeling of satisfaction when 20+ dice "burst" around the defenders for no effect!

The need for some sorts of unit organisation is apparent, so in bombers' group only two would throw at a time, except before the assault where everyone should be able to throw a salvo (it's what the Germans did and I'd expect everyone else as well).

While I'm glad the trenches offer extraordinary protection, it should be easier to suppress the enemy, I do not see this happening nearly often enough. I suppose explosives (grenades included) should count double (1 hit = 2 hits for suppression), which would also make rifle grenades actually useful. The strength of MG is clearly lower once the attackers are working down the trench, which is exactly what I'd want of it.

I will write up very generic teams (bombers, crew served weapons, ordinary rifles etc) that could be used for all the nations, and I would be looking up for differences at some later time, for now it really does not matter.

As usual, thanks for reading!


  1. It seems like a privilege to see how you are tackling each step and each problem.

    1. Ah, you're exaggerating now, but still - thanks! It's good to hear someone finds this aspect of the hobby interesting!

  2. I have even finished considering your first game and you've presented another equally fascinating aar.
    I like some of your thoughts and will once more put ogether my own in due course.

    1. Sounds great Joe, I will delay the next game until I hear from you!

  3. Great report. I wouldn't worry about the buckets of dice- they wouldn't put me off for one.

    Also I think you are right to limit the effectiveness of the bombers and MGs. In WW1 they were new weapons and large numbers of men would be assigned to them to keep them firing. A bombing section would only have two 'throwers' after all.



    1. Thanks Pete!

      I agree, especially with bombers, I do like the idea of salvos, but instead of only being available before an assault (which is a sensible idea, I think); salvo could be thrown at any point, but only once per game.

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