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Timing of Fire
One of the most obvious changes from the original SPEARHEAD is in the Timing of Fire sequence. SPEARHEAD focused — rightly — on the scissors-paper-rock relationship of infantry, tanks, and guns; the Timing of Fire rules rewarded cooperation in these vital arms. In modern warfare, however, these categorizations break down. Antitank guns, where they are still present, are usually self-propelled and are more tank-like. Infantry now usually ride in armored vehicles, many of which are basically tanks. The tanks themselves have powered turrets, stabilized guns, and laser targeting systems that greatly increase the speed and accuracy of target designation. Accompanying this mechanization of all arms is the rise of a new weapon of mobile war, the helicopter, with its rapid target acquisition, high rate of fire, and long range while artillery has resurged as a major killer with new, improved munitions and increasingly rapid response times.
We altered the Timing of Fire sequence from SPEARHEAD in light of these considerations. Infantry, Tanks, and Guns now all fire in one of the two Direct Fire Phases. Artillery and Air units now fire in separate phases, Artillery before Air; thus allowing a wise player to use his artillery to suppress enemy air-defenses prior to the arrival of attack helicopters, the new shock arm of modern warfare.
Even after this revision of the basic Timing of Fire sequence, a major problem remained. All modern armies rely, to a greater or lesser extent, on guided antitank missiles characterized by a large back blast and a slow time to target. These factors would seem to indicate that Antitank Guided Weapon fire should occur late in the sequence of fire. Yet because all types of units (turreted vehicles, helicopters, and infantry) use antitank missiles, assigning them a separate phase in the Timing of Fire was impractical.
Our solution was to have Antitank Guided Weapon fire occur simultaneous with other Direct Fire, but limit its capacity for Ambush fire. The lack of Ambush capacity goes far to simulate the real-life weaknesses of the antitank guided missile. For example, assume Player A has an ATGW vehicle in cover and Player B moves his tank at combat speed to 18" away. Since ATGWs are not eligible for Ambush fire, the ATGW will fire in the Stationary Fire phase. If the tank survives, it will get to fire back in the Moving Fire phase, which it would not get to do against a vehicle using conventional cannon.
Much has been written about the frightening accuracy of modern weapon systems. It is an unquestioned fact that modern tank guns and missiles are capable of kills at ranges up to 4000 meters. Such statistics, when applied to miniature Wargames, often result in a static battlefield where enemy forces engage each other across an 8’ (or larger) table. Such games seem to us to be neither enjoyable nor realistic.
Theoretical performance aside, most modern tank engagements have taken place at about 2400 meters or less. Moving targets are difficult to hit at over 1500 meters, particularly when obscured by smoke and terrain. On the attack, vehicle movement, battlefield dust and smoke, and the enemy's use of camouflage and concealment significantly reduce effective engagement ranges. On defense, the necessary platoon-level fire control results in a further reduction in the engagement range. Even if one tank in a firefight gets a shot off at maximum range, the platoon as a whole may not engage until the enemy is within a designated engagement zone, well within effective range. Even the much-vaunted antitank guided missile’s accuracy is limited by flight length, operator exposure, terrain, smoke, and incoming fire.
Given these considerations, we have erred on the side of caution in assigning Ranges on the Data Cards. In MSH, most weapon ranges are generally confined to 24" (or less), and the real trick is finding ground where you can use even that much range.
As in original SPEARHEAD, all MSH platoons have a single Effective Range. While it is true that casualties do increase as range decreases, there is generally a large "effective range" within which casualties can be inflicted at a fairly constant rate. Once outside this area, the number of casualties inflicted rapidly becomes insignificant, at least from the point of view of the operational commander. Since MSH simulates warfare at the operational level, the multiple "range brackets" used in most wargames are unnecessary tactical details.
Technically oriented players are certain to notice we did not include any data on minimum ranges for direct fire (particularly ATGWs). Again, this is by design. MSH assumes that combat is taking place within a flexible combat area, where local commanders are making decisions; this includes setting up proper engagement zones and knowing the optimum time to fire to avoid minimum range problems. The effective range of modern weapons defines the area of combat in MSH.