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Modern Spearhead Designer's Notes
Designers' Notes - Helicopters / SRBMs / WMDs 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


In designing our helicopter rules, we were guided by the Soviet conception of the "flying tank" and the maxim "rotor is to track as track is to boot." At the same time, we sought to limit helicopters in a realistic manner to executable missions and engagement areas, much as SPEARHEAD had limited ground forces with orders and command zones.

The purpose of the Helicopter Missions is twofold: Firstly, to emphasize what the objective of the helicopter’s sortie is; and secondly, to represent the restrictive effect of ammunition limitations. We had originally planned to have separate attack values (for each helicopter type) on the Data Cards for each mission type. This proved cumbersome and was abandoned. Instead, emphasis is now placed on analyzing each helicopter type’s strengths and weaknesses, and assigning units a mission that allows them to maximize the use of their best factors (much as would be done in a real conflict).

Helicopter transportation has been designed to reflect the main principles of current doctrine—emphasizing the ability to react quickly and effectively by the use of heliborne reserves. Unlike other rules systems, we have not allowed for the "artillery barrage" of helicopters while loading/unloading in a LZ. This is because, although a game turn may run from 15-30 minutes, the actual time period in which the helicopters will be low enough and stationary enough to serve as vulnerable targets to artillery is generally too short for an effective artillery response to be called in.

Short-Range Ballistic Missiles and Weapons of Mass Destruction

The availability to all modern armies of Short-Range Ballistic Missiles (SRBMs) such as the Scud and FROG 7 is another important modern development. Although capable of detonating chemical, nuclear, or conventional warheads hundreds of kilometers into the enemy’s rear, on closer study SRBMs are very unimpressive. They are extremely inaccurate (the Scud-B missile has a standard deviation of over 1 kilometer) and, as the Gulf War demonstrated, relatively easy to shoot down using advanced Western missiles. Thus our game rules have been relatively unkind to SRBMs.

However, one of the principal uses of SRBMs in real life is the delivery of chemical and nuclear munitions. Although chemical weapons have been in existence since World War One, their use was not considered by SPEARHEAD for the obvious reason that they were not used in World War II. Due to the growing frequency of chemical weapon use in wars between developing nations, we felt it imperative to account for the possible use of chemical agents. Our chemical weapon rules are designed to be easily playable and focus on the operational effects of chemical weapon use—troop route, closure of avenues of approach, etc.

All that can be said for the inclusion of tactical nuclear weapons in the game is that they exist, and very well might have been used by the West in any European land war. We suggest that the nuclear weapon rules are best used in 1980s Europe campaign games, with the provision that their availability hinges on whether or not the Warsaw Pact forces initiate use of chemical weapons.

Modern Spearhead Rear CoverData Cards

Even a casual glance at the Data Cards will alert the gamer that the values therein are not compatible with those listed in the original World War II rules. The simple reason for this incompatibility is technological change. Few gamers would attempt the Napoleonic Wars and the American Civil War with an exactly identical rules system owing to the large technological changes between 1815 and 1865. The changes in technology are even more extreme between World War II and the present day. The difference between a WWII tank and a modern tank must be considered an order of magnitude; indeed, it is difficult to fit even the T55 and the M1A2 in the same scale. And yet, because MSH is designed to cover the time period of war called "modern"— approximately 1956 to the present day—we had to fit the T55 and M1A2 into the same scale and have the game remain playable. After several failed efforts at a Data Card scale compatible with World War II; we reached the painful conclusion that it could not be done without sacrificing both realism and playability throughout the entire modern era.

Last Updated on Friday, 19 March 2010 14:39
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