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Having signed up to the SOTCW Journal sometime ago, and being a co-author of Modern Spearhead, I had taken an interest in Mark Bevis’ review of MSH (Modern Spearhead) in Journal 38, and his on going series of articles since then. Mark has raised some good points, proposed some very sound “house-rules”, and otherwise raised some issues for topical discussion!
In the following article I have made a general response to Mark’s thoughts in his review, some specific responses to his proposed rules changes and house-rules, and in conclusion some links to useful MSH related websites (the latter not reproduced here as they are now obsolete - Ed).
The following article originally appeared in the SOTCW's Journal No.48 (Christmas 2003) in response to series of articles by Mark Bevis in Journal's 38-46 (Christmas 2000 to Christmas 2002).
You can read Mark's original review in the article Modern Spearhead Review and his follow up article Modern Spearhead: A Further Review.
Modern Spearhead – The Review
In Journal 38 Mark Bevis commented that he had hoped these would be a set using d10 and he was disappointed at the time to find they only used d6. Over time I have come to agree that should an updated version be published we should seriously consider changing to d10. The use of d6 was dictated primarily by a need to maintain compatibility with the original SH (WW2 Spearhead) rules, amongst other things.
In this review Mark questions whether we have got “in a muddle with MICV transported infantry” and I can assure him we haven’t. The rules are very carefully constructed to accommodate these in a unique and flexible manner that most importantly maintains game balance and fits in with the overall approach of the rules. We went through lengthy trials and discussions deciding how best to represent these. Mark offers a suggestion to represent the vehicle and it’s troops separately – which is a common demand we had from play testers who were used to the 1:1 rules environment of WRG or Challenger. This is not a good option, it unbalances the rules and makes the IFV teams far more powerful than they should be – all the data card values are based on these being ‘combined’ teams, not two separate entities occupying the same space – and I will touch on this further, later in this article.
Regarding the lack of Pre-Game Reconnaissance, etc, this is (as with SH) the realm of the scenario designer, and an unnecessary complication to build into the actual game rules. However I do agree we could have better represented RPV’s in some form… I’d be interested in seeing people’s proposals for how to represent these in a MSH game as I have failed to find a truly satisfactory mechanic myself.
In answer to Mark’s comments on aircraft, yes, we didn’t specifically include specialist Air Combat rules – after all MSH is a ground combat game and we didn’t have space to do justice to air-to-air combat – however we did include AA factors for most Aircraft and Helicopters, allowing enterprising players to conduct air-to-air fire in the AA Combat Phase!
As regards the issue with movement under defend orders this has been well clarified in relation to the SH (WW2) rules a couple of years after their release (about 1997-98) and in MSH we have assumed gamers already have a knowledge of SH (which is perhaps an unfair assumption). In MSH we endeavoured to reword the rules where necessary to make it clearer and more definitive without deviating from the intent of original SH rules. To quickly clarify, “moving towards the enemy” under defend orders can include backing away – basically once a defending formation is contacted by enemy it’s stands may move where ever they wish within the CZ (Command Zone) of the unit – subject to the pivoting and movement rate rules.
Mark does raise a good point concerning the recon elements – a perpetual thorn in our side – and in all honesty we have yet to find a truly innovative way to represent them. Allowing Recon stands to conduct individual break offs (exactly as if they were infantry being overrun) may well be the best reasonable representation at this time.
Now we come to a bugbear of mine – the constant cry, “my veteran troops don’t shoot any better than my opponents green ones” – and I hate to disagree, but they do! When stands are suppressed, 50% more Veteran units will return to action compared to Green ones – the combat effectiveness is represent here, at the target end not the initiator. There are several reasons for this, one of which being the restrictions of the d6, in the case of poor quality armies the factors on the data cards have already been reduced to include poor quality training, and another being game scale – we make no separate allowance for movement directly affecting fire combat effectiveness so neither did we include additional minor factors for crew skill (over and above overall army skill level). So overall this is reflected, just not in the usual big plus on the to hit die that most 1:1 gamers are probably used to!
Mark raises concerns regarding ATGW factors for infantry; the infantry on the data cards are designed as fairly generic and not necessarily representative of specific units. Pretty much all Infantry platoons do have ATGW, whether it be a solitary LAW, or everyman carrying an RPG, so all infantry platoon stands should have some ATGW factor. On the MSH website I have provided a brief summary of how ATGW factors were derived including base factors for most systems and adjustments for top attack, helicopters, having only 1-2 weapons on a stand, etc, and players should feel free to use these to adjust the factors to represent actual real-life TO&Es.