A right to reply?
Following John Moher’s article in Journal 48, I feel inclined to write back, and expand upon my points of view with aspects of the rules. John seems to like some of the ideas I have presented, but has not yet commented on the strategic bombers and Special Forces rules I suggested more recently. The latter could quite rightly be seen as tinkering unnecessarily, but I do like to cover all the options available in the real world.
John’s most important point is in his conclusion, and applies to other well-written rules sets, such as Fire and Fury. If the basic structure is right, the rules can be tinkered with and added to without destroying the original intent or adding too much complexity.
The following article originally appeared in the SOTCW's Journal No.51 (Christmas 2004) and is a response to a response by John Moher (one of the Modern Spearhead authors) that appeared in Journal 48 (Christmas 2003), itself a response to Mark's original review in 2000 and subsequent series of articles in the Journal. You can read John's 2003 response reproduced in the article Thoughts & Responses.
So one group can end up playing a slightly different version than another group in another town, but if they got together for a Spearhead game they could still game with each other, swapping ‘house ru1es’ ideas as and where. Thus the rules suggestions I have presented in recent Journals are one I might use if I had some Spearhead garners in my area. I have no more authority to present these than any other wargamer, other than having written rules that have seen many years play in the Burnley area, and some knowledge and opinion (!) of modern warfare.
The main area we will have to disagree on is the mechanised infantry Combat Teams, and I am not sure that having separate APC/MICV and infantry stands does give these platoons too much firepower. After all, consider your typical stands. A stand of tanks represents 4-5 actual tanks i.e. 4 barrels firing simultaneously if using the traditional one-one rules. A MICV platoon of say 4 Bradleys has 4 TOW missiles or 4 25mm cannon it can fire together, if the infantry are inside. However dismount the infantry and you add 3x Dragon/Javelin ATGW, 6x 40mm grenade launchers, numerous LAWs. So the firepower is doubled in terms of numbers of weapons that could fire simultaneously. Plus you now have more targets (4 vehicles and 3-4 squads of infantry) to complicate the enemy’s fire. A typical Soviet platoon would have 3x BMP-2 firing 3 30mm cannon or 3x Spigot, dismount the infantry and you add 3x 40mm grenade launchers, 6x disposable LAW, 3x RPG-16. Plus as 2 stands represent a Soviet style 10-vehicle company, every other stand would have a sole AT-7 or AT-13 ATGW as well. I know that this simplistic in terms of exact numbers, as using one stand to represent 4-5 elements allows for historical breakdowns and lower strength units, but even so, there is considerably more firepower available to mech infantry when they operate dismounted. The Soviets in Afghanistan made use of this by actively deploying the BMPs as combat vehicles separate from their dismounted infantry, within the battlegroup, so I want to be able to reflect the extra firepower and use the separate tactics. Plus it just feels better somehow! The few Modem Spearhead garners I have met seem to be split evenly on the issue, some have adopted the system I suggested, and others like it the way it is written.
Attacking with ATGW
At first reading it seems that a force advancing basically cannot use ATGW and SP guns except for close assaulting, as the rules say that neither of these can move and fire. As a move is half an hour of real time this was a real concern of mine, as though they cannot fire and hit anything whilst physically moving in real life, in practice they only need to halt for a minute to fire one or two rounds before moving on again. Closer reading of 3.7.1 on p.5 of the modern rules, states that once enemy has been spotted, a unit on attack orders may “move slower than half speed to enable it to fight properly.” This is important as it implies that the BG or part of it can advance with zero speed and still obey it’s attack arrow. Section 3.7.4 confirms this for support weapons and 3.12 confirms it again in the next to last paragraph “Order (changes) affect all platoons of a BG immediately, except that platoons may remain halted when firing” (my italics) as long as CZ is not violated. So now I can rest easy, basically the player does his own leap-frog platoons covering each tactics as he moves, as long as the BG has already sighted enemy, and the CZ is not violated. Section 3.9 confirms it in a way as it says even if using timed orders, a BG can arrive late but must still attack it’s original objective at the end of it’s command arrow.
To say that infantry cannot attack armour in the open is odd. The Chinese used human wave charges against unsupported British Centurions in Korea behind the Gloucester’s last stand, and in Gulf War 2 it appears that a whole Fedayeen infantry brigade equipped with Syrian AT-14s attacked American armoured units in Iraq, accounting for one or more Abrams. Australians at Bardia in 1941 did it against dug-in Italian tanks. Whilst it is acknowledged that it is usually a very bad idea for dismounted infantry to assault armour in the open, it can happen physically unless the tanks drive off in reverse, so should be allowed for in the rules, especially as the order system mentioned above might force moving foot infantry to advance into tanks coming the other way (on the rare occasions when two opposing forces are generally advancing on each other).
Moving under defend orders
That is a bit of a revelation that moving towards the enemy allows movement backing away from the enemy. This is compromised by the rule that a stand cannot pivot more than 45° a turn - in nearly all cases the enemy would overrun or bypass the vehicle attempting to retire within the four moves it takes to about face. 2 hours of real time. Perhaps it would be easier to allow reverse movement (at half rate for vehicles) within the CZ if so required. Infantry and Recce vehicles could reverse at full rate perhaps as long as the CZ is not exceeded. As we are not really making decisions at the company/BGHQ level, these are circumstances that normally would be allowed to the discretion of the BG commander and another case of the BHQ looking after it’s own affairs. Perhaps just Recce units, plus infantry in woods or BUA are only allowed a reverse move. Ideas, anyone???
I included this rule adding extra ranges because it is claimed to be a major war-winning piece of equipment if one-side has it and the other doesn’t. In the 1st Gulf War it certainly was in the poor daylight conditions that occurred on several occasions, never mind night. In tactical games wily wargamers and armchair theorists with advancing NATO type armies can pop smoke on being ambushed to block the enemy line of sight, or even lay smoke on their own tanks with indirect fire assets, then use the TI to see through the smoke to pick of the enemy. I doubt if they would go so far in real life, due to IFF problems, and the existing rules cover for poor weather conditions. However it is also claimed that TI is useful in clear conditions to spot targets that are in cover beyond the normal visibility ranges, which is why I added the 3”.
As John says, it probably won’t have much impact on most games, as the movement rates usually allow you to get close enough to hidden infantry anyway, fairly quickly. Just an option to consider.
Glad to see an idea well received, I don’t think it was my mate Phil’s idea after all, I think he had seen it on a website, so we can’t take the credit, but the rule as adapted by John makes sense. Particularly the 3” spotting range – (now all those Recce Jeeps and occasional cavalry are really useful rather than being vulnerable targets. I like it!)
I have not had chance to produce any further stuff, due to moving and work, but I have various ideas on the boil, mostly organisation charts and new data charts. Some one expressed an interest in NATO-Russia 1949, and I intend to do Iraq 1961. In the news today was the revelation that the US had plans to invade Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi in 1973 after the Arab-Israeli war, to secure the oilfields. They feared a Soviet backed counter-attack through Iraq into Kuwait. Scenarios galore!
Again, if anyone has any WW2/Modem Spearhead organisation they would like to see, I can present my version through the Journal. Many thanks to John for replying to my run of articles, and I hope he can use the Journal as a medium for presenting new rules thoughts and information. There are a lot of garners without ready Internet access so even publishing details from the websites would be helpful. If John and co-authors are looking to produce a TOE book supplement for MSH, I would be happy be involved.
John Moher subsequently replied to this reply in the SOTCW's Journal 56 (Christmas 2006) and you can read his reply reproduced here in More Thoughts & Musings.
Contributor: © 2004 Mark Bevis.