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Modern Spearhead Designer's Notes
Designers' Notes - More on Weapons PDF Print E-mail
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The Rules - About MSH
Monday, 01 January 2001 11:47
Article Index
Designers' Notes
Timing of Fire / Ranges
More on Weapons
Helicopters / SRBMs / WMDs
Data Cards / Conclusion
All Pages

New Attack and Defense Factors

One of our primary challenges was to create mechanics that could simulate the new weapon systems and counter-measures of modern war, without unduly modifying the standard Attack vs. Defense factor procedures of the original SPEARHEAD.

As noted earlier, one of the major new developments of modern warfare has been the ATGW. In the 1973 War, the long range and devastating effectiveness of the ATGW had military analysts proclaiming the end of the tank as a viable weapon. Since 1973, however, new developments in defense technology (reactive or combined armor) have transformed the ATGW into merely a mediocre tank killer. After several unhappy playtest experiments involving new modifiers, automatic misses, and other modifications to the SPEARHEAD combat resolution method, we hit upon the idea of developing new Attack and Defense Factors, ATGW and CED. These new combat factors allowed us to retain SPEARHEAD’s simple combat resolution while still reflecting the changing effectiveness of ATGWs as technology progressed.


All modern tank guns are to some degree stabilized for firing on the move. Recently, the M1A2 tank has been lauded as the ultimate development in stabilization technology, a tank that can fire accurately and rapidly while moving up to 60 miles per hour.

The original SPEARHEAD permitted tanks to fire on the move but penalized their fire by placing it in a later turn sequence. The question facing us was therefore whether advances in weapon stabilization meant that moving tanks should be allowed to fire in the stationary fire phase. In answering this question, we looked beyond the individual tank and asked whether the rate of fire and accuracy of tanks in the battalion as a whole would still be adversely affected by movement. An examination of the ‘frictional’ factors, including fire coordination, unit formation, tank commander's focus, and smoke/dust, convinced us that any battalion of tanks would have more effective firepower when stationary than when moving, regardless of stabilization.

Modern Spearhead Front CoverHaving determined that moving vehicles with stabilized weapons would not be allowed to fire as if stationary, the question then became how we would represent the differences in degree of stabilization between the ultra-modern systems of, e.g., the M1A2 and earlier stabilization systems. We found that permitting vehicles to take greater combat movement was both a playable and realistic representation of the improvements in mobility and fire control afforded by their advanced stabilization systems.

Infantry Factors and Ranges

Although modern weapon effectiveness has increased, engagement ranges have not. It is true that the presence of semi and full automatic weapons throughout the world’s armies has now created a common level of theoretical firepower possibly not seen since Napoleonic times. However, these weapons haven’t provided a corresponding increase in range, and it is now generally acknowledge that the bulk of Infantry combat will occur at ranges of 300m or less. Furthermore, the squad or section machine gun and various support weapons (mortars and artillery) have and will still inflict the most casualties.

Extensive research has also shown that in modern wars (i.e. Post WWII) often only 1-2 soldiers in a squad will actually fight, the balance simply firing their weapons in the general direction of the enemy, or not firing at all. The level to which this is apparent can vary: The syndrome was apparent in Vietnam where the US had large number of unwilling conscripts present, and yet virtually unknown in the Gulf War, where the same nation had a higher percentage of professionals. These facts ultimately put emphasis on the squad or section heavy weapon as being responsible for the bulk of a unit’s firepower. This issue is further complicated by the fact that after World War II most nations abandoned LMGs in favor of GPMGs (such as the US M60) based on the effectiveness of the German Infantry tactics. However in the ‘90s the pendulum has swung back in favor of the LMG, and most nations are replacing their GPMGs with lighter weapons.

Ultimately, we have concluded that overall effectiveness of Infantry firepower is very stable and similar worldwide. Regardless of the presence of high numbers of automatic or semi-automatic weapons and the quality of the troops the level of, and effectiveness of, firepower will be fairly constant.

Infantry factors are therefore standardized at AI of 5 and Range 6". In extreme cases of unwilling conscripts or poorly equipped troops such as insurgents, scenario designers may wish to assign a temporary AI factor of 4. With the advent of the M16, FN-FAL, AK-47 and similar assault rifles, the distinction between Rifles and SMGs is moot. But because we feel that the majority of infantry firepower comes from its crew-served weapons, we have not followed SPEARHEAD’s precedent of allowing troops with fully-automatic weapons to conduct stationary fire even when moving. The SMG Platoon has thus disappeared from the Data Cards. Likewise, the presence of "pure" HMG, MMG, or SFMG units has largely disappeared in most armies; on the rare occasions where they are present, they have an extended range (9"), no AT, and only the same AI 5 as other Infantry.

Last Updated on Friday, 19 March 2010 14:39
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