Friday, February 22, 2013

Experimental House Rules - Set 1

Yesterday I played another solo-game, and here´s the result. Let me start off with a small introduction to some hacks and rule-changes I applied. I´ve been tinkering around with some thoughts on how to tweak FoF even more to my pleasure. The rules work great as they are and I´m far from being dissatisfied, but recently I´ve started experimenting to tweak some aspects that I thought needed some improvement. Maybe its just me, maybe I´ve got a wrong idea of how modern combat really works, as I´m in the fortunate position to be a complete civilian and have no military experience apart from playing ARMA and watching documentaries - but somehow I felt that simple infantry engagements produced too much casualties under certain circumstances. I know that Fof compresses time and that a round of fire is a sequence of up to several minutes, with a lot of stuff happening behind the scenes - I have no problem with this, but it doesn´t feel right when it comes down to maneuvering and basic infantry tactics (in my opinion). While the overwatch-mechanic works very well and awards the use of bounding movement and fire, I feel that flanking the opponent doesn´t offer any bonus to the flanking side - I only becomes viable when you´ve so many men that a frontal assault would result in a completely clogged up situation. But from what I´ve learned so far in theory, flanking is one of the most important and effective tactics to defeat an opponent. I´ve tried setting up several small scenarios where the attacker has to clear out a defensive position, but either the flanking move was useless because the enemy was utterly destroyed before they reached a viable position, or I decided to completely forego flanking and move in from the front, using the extra firepower outright instead of delaying its use until reaching a flanking position (which offers no bonus anyway).
In short, the attacker always overran the defender (with comparable TQ of course) without using flanking. Thus, my conclusion: Find-fix-flank - doesn´t work that well in FoF. Adding a bonus for flanking wouldn´t rectify the real problem (which is that troops suffer casualties too easily). Even if it would, fixing the enemy is almost impossible. I somehow came to the conclusion that the morale system is the primary fault. There is simply no way to fix the enemy. "Pinned" results force units to move away from the attacker into the closest cover - unfortunately, there´s no explanation on what happens if they already are in suitable cover. Even if they had to stay there, they´d be in a very bad position without any flanking going on. Their drop in TQ means their defensive qualities are reduced significantly. Add to this that for normal confidence troops, a pin usually means that one fire is already down (which subtracts another def-die), overwhelming them with fire is very easy at this point, if enough attackers are left to fire - no need to flank. If not enough attackers are left, the enemy may move away, as there is no way to fix him in place (which is what pinned is supposed to mean...). Suppressive fire doesn´t work too well for me either. The simple reason is that loosing 2 FP means loosing 2 very real chances to inflict casualties with the current mechanism. Rolling a 7 or 8 as a regular adds a good chance to cause a casualty, which has a suppressive quality on its own. Actually, the chance to cause another casualty with this 2 additional die seems to be greater than the enemy failing his suppression check (that´s my impression, I haven´t done the calculation yet).

Now, if I take the above, and add the already discussed anomaly that having more troops in one unit dramatically raises your chances to defend yourself sucessfully, I´ve decided to adapt the defense and morale system in a small experiment:
-FP is calculated as before
-All FP die are rolled as usually after making a reaction test and determining the winner.
-Now, instead of rolling a defense die based on the number of troops + cover modifiers and pairing off the results against the sucessfull FP-die, the defender rolls a classic save on a D8  - one D8 for every sucessfull FP. To display the different properties of defense, some modifiers have to be applied:
Units in Cover become casualties on a 1 or 2.
  • Improved cover: +1 (e.g. troops are only hit on a 1   - or, in an alternative reading with the same outcome: the Saving roll is modified by +1, which means rolling a 2 results in 2+1 = 3 which is a success...)
  • Smoke:  +1 (harder to see, harder to hit)
  • Being irregular / poorly trained: -1  (poorly trained, not good in utilizing cover, no military experience...)
  • Attacker in Optimum Range: -1 (picking off targets is easier if they are close enough)
  • Being in the open / exposed: -1 (no cover means you´re easier to hit)
  • Rapid movement:  -1  (rushing forward, exposing yourself more...)
  • Subjected to Airstrike/Artillery: -2 (as those weapons are inherently more deadly)
  • Flanked:  -1 (getting flanked is bad, as you cannot effectively defend to either side, you get enfiladed, etc.)

That´s my current list, which is already too long - but should incorporate the basics. As always, examples are more telling than pure theory:

A US Fireteam shoots at a group of 4 Taliban in solid cover somewhere in a treeline. With his 6 Firepower die, he rolls:  1,3,6,6,7,7  (4 sucesses). The Taliban player now rolls 4 saves. He is in solid cover (1 & 2 will kill -  e.g. saving on a 3+). The Taliban are Local Irregulars, with no combat experience, which reduces their survival chance by 1  - e.g. saving on a 4+ (1,2,3 will cause casualties).  Rolling his 4 defense die, he scores: 1,6,7,8 -  one casualty!*

*Note that under normal FoF-rules, there would be at least 2 casualties by the 7s alone.
The changes in the morale system are rather small:  Troops now take a morale check for every successfull FP die. On the first failed check, they become "pinned" - which now only means they cannot move away from their current position - no more drop in TQ. A TQ drop only happens when they fail a second time, becoming "suppressed" - e.g. hunkering down and hoping for the best, greatly reducing their effective defense.

Continuing on our example above:
 After getting hit by 4 successfull FP, the Taliban take 4 Morale checks: 
4,4,6  -  2,6,6 - 1,4,9 - 2,2,5 -   As the last roll was a failure, the Taliban are now pinned in place and fixed. They cannot move away and can be outmaneuvered for this turn. If they suffer from shrinkage, the´d lose another man through rolling a 1. 

As they are not suppressed, they may return fire with 2 soldiers. The result is a 5 and a 5 - two successes. The enemy is in cover (3+), but well trained, not in OR, not flanked, etc - nothing else applies. Rolling 2D8 results in: 1,8   - Man down! 
Taking two morale checks: 3,4,6 - 2,7,9 - everything fine, the troops shake off the fire.

Body-armour and stimulant drugs can be modeled through different first-aid-tables. The existing table is fine for western troops with Body armor. Less well equipped troops should be downgraded one step - e.g. 1,2 = dead, 3,4 = serious, 5,6 = light wound. Caveman casevac as normal, stimulant drugs extend this to 5,6 = ok.

Rolling the first aid checks on the beginning of the next turn shows: 
The American is seriously wounded despite his body armor (2), the Taliban combat ineffective (5).  

Next turn, the Americans are still confronted with the Taliban (who lose their pinned-status and have to be kept under continious fire) and have to deal with them eventually - instead of cleanly wiping them out in 1 turn. Moving into Optimum range, closing in for the kill - will increase your chances to destroy those pesky enemies. If you can dispatch a team to flank them, all the better, as you´ll further increase the chances to kill the enemy.

Being in OR and Flanking adds means that you´ll can double your chances on a casualty. Once suppressed, you can also mount a close-assault to flush them out. But be careful with maneuvering your forces around the enemies flank, as he might pin the attacker as well. If playing a kinetic engagement, the defender might actually survive long enough to retain initiative and start an ordered retreat, covering his moving units with overwatch.

Basically, these changes make things much harder for the attacker, as dislodging the enemy becomes more of a hassle. This means that you´ll either need more attacking forces (to outmaneuver and overwhelm the enemy with more firepower) or more indirect firepower (Air & Arty) to pound the enemy into submission. As overwhelming defenses now takes longer, you might want to increase the length for some scenarios by one or two turns. Furthermore, you´ll find that small units are more survivable now and it doesn´t make a difference if a unit gets shot from 2x4 guys or 1x8 or any other potential combination. Grouping them together might still yield a bonus, as you roll only 1 reaction test instead of several, and you get hit only by 1 concentrated attack instead of multiple Rounds of Fire.

I´ll show you how these changes work out in practice in the next AAR, where I applied them. Feel free to use them or modify them as it suits you! If you have any questions, I´ll try do my best to answer and clarify.

That´s it for now, more coming soon - here´s a small glimpse on the next mission:

Teaser for Day 2 - Marines in serious trouble!

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