Researching WW2 equipment for rules and ranges

Incidental Hobby Learning Bit

“The pleasure does not begin and end with the actual playing of the war-game. There are many pleasant hours to be spent in making model soldiers, painting them, constructing terrain, carrying out research into battles, tactics and uniforms …”

This is one of my favourite or reassuring quotes from Donald Featherstone, War Games 1962 when my gaming life seems to be too much preparation time, not enough games time

Part of the interest (or irritation?)  of researching and amending games  rules is working out ranges of weapons etc. over time compared to each other.

I have been looking at adapting my hex version of Donald Featherstone’s Close Wars appendix to his 1962 War Games from 18th century forest skirmish to running simple WW2 platoon level games inspired by rediscovering a handful of childhood Peter Laing WW2 15mm figures.

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2016/10/02/ww2-platoon-level-close-little-world-wars-rules/

Lots of questions arise from adapting or thinking through rules and ranges:

How far / fast can a man move on average carrying battle kit and weapons?

How fast is a loaded infantryman on a bicycle? Off road / on road?

How fast is a despatch rider off road / on road?

 

Movement and firing ranges

The original ‘Close Wars’ rules by Featherstone has a Redcoat /  Infantry man in the French and Indian Wars travelling at 9 inches in loose formation under 3 figures or in formation 6 inches in cluttered terrain (natives carrying less and living off the land etc moved 9 inches).

We take each 3 inches to be a Heroscape hex square.

A British, German or American infantryman carrying their weapons and field kit is probably carrying as much stuff and clobber (weapons, ammunition, backpack, tools, food, spare uniform, water) as their ancestors 200 years before.

Effective Firing Ranges 

Looking at effective firing ranges there is an interesting range of Wikipedia sites to research the weapons that the Peter Laing small WW2 platoon range are likely to be carrying.

In Featherstone’s  simple Close Wars appendix, firing is 12 inches range, presumably for a Brown Bess musket , which I also take to be the firing range for  native bow and arrow, spear etc., treating  all the same just for simplicity.

Featherstone’s figures for his demonstration battles vary from 30mm Spencer Smith figures to 20mm Airfix figures without any alteration of any firing range.

A Brown Bess musket used from 1722 to 1838 by the British and American army (and beyond in many countries into the 1860s) had an effective firing range as a flintlock muzzle loading musket of 50 to 100 yards (or 45 to 90 metres). This would give us only around a 1 hex firing range. Even once converted slowly to the percussion cap from 1838 onwards, its effective range would only increase to 300 yards (270 metres or 2 hexes).

David Nash’s War Games book (paperback, 1970s)  is  an unusual colourful offering for the time with some uniform plates, being mostly information for those researching their own rules, working out weapons and army lists. He has an interesting weapons graph comparing a British 303 WW2  rifle compared to a French musket:

Weapons graph from David Nash’s Wargames (Hamlyn, 1974)image

 

In Featherstone’s WW2 rules and in ‘Close Wars’, a rifle fires up to 12 inches. In his Horse and Musket / American Civil war simple rules in War Games,  this is slightly more complexFeatherstone rules that a Rifle (still counted as a volley) can fire from 6 to 24 inches with a more effective hit rate the closer the range / target. Carbines have a shorter range of 12 inches and light troops are given an effective firing range of up to 30 inches, presumably to cover the introduction of rifles and sharpshooters?

“Like most muskets the Brown Bess was not very accurate because the ball had to be quite loose for ease of loading. It would be very hard to hit another soldier by deliberately aiming at him at ranges greater than 100m. This inherent lack off accuracy was compensated for by having a large number of men fire their muskets at the same time at very short range, sometimes less that 25m.” http://waterloo200.org/200-object/brown-bess-musket-bayonet/

In his simple Ancient rules in War Games, Donald Featherstone lists Longbow / crossbow etc having  a range from 6  up to 24 inches. Javelin / spears are 3 to 9 inches (Roman Pilum are 3 inches only).  So we are blurring it a bit making all distance weapons at 12 inches but it makes for simpler faster game play.

image

This simple WW2 range for platoon level action is highly praised for its balance on the Tim’s Tanks blogspot , which gave me my glimpse of the Americans for the first time (albeit doubled up as British Paratroops) : http://timstanks.blogspot.co.uk/2015/07/peter-laing-15mm-miniatures.html

Any shortfalls in Tim’s Tanks  WW2 Peter Laing collection were patched, as with my own Peter Laing WW2 troops, from Peter’s WW1 range.

http://timstanks.blogspot.co.uk/2015/06/peter-laing-15mm-miniatures.html

“This range was ahead of its time and the figures surprisingly well thought through. For each nationality (British, U.S. or German) there was a sidearm equipped officer figure, a SMG armed NCO, an infantryman advancing with rifle at high port, an LMG and No.2 and a Light Mortar and No.2. Lovely figures, perfect for the task”. (Tim’s Tanks Peter Laing WW2 themed blogpost)

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This ‘WW2’ German Peter Laing despatch rider (from his WW1 range) did not survive encountering these three tough Tommies armed with rifle, bayonet and entrenching tools!

Researching WW2 weapons effective firing ranges

Featherstone has ‘Rifle’  in his simplified WW2 rules in War Games as 12 inches (or 4 hexes) so assuming 500 metres to be 12 inches or 30 centimetres / 300mm on our games table, this gives us a rough working scale of:

3 inch hex equals 125 metres.

1 inch equals 42 (41.6) metres

1 centimetre equals 17 metres (or 16.666 metres)

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Peter Laing British Rifleman  (F2001) with Lee Enfield rifle advancing, next to British Infantry Bren Gunner (F2004) and German Light Machine Gunner (F2016) in my young Matt 1983 paint jobs.

Standard WW2 British Rifle – assumed to be Lee Enfield  303 rifle with effective firing range 500 metres (or 12 inches / 4 hexes).

Standard WW2 German Rifle – assumed to be Mauser KAR 98k – also with effective firing range 500 metres (or 12 inches / 4 hexes).

Standard WW2 American Rifle – assumed to be the M1 Garand – also with effective firing range of 450 to 500 metres (or 12 inches / 4 hexes).

Standard British WW2 SMG Submachinegun  – assumed to be the Sten Gun  with effective firing range 100 metres. The Thompson SMG (see below) was also used by Commando forces etc. (3 inches or 1 hex)

Standard German WW2 SMG Submachinegun  – assumed to be the MP35 SMG at 150 – 200 metres or the more common MP40 SMG  with effective firing range 100 -200 metres (or 3 inches or 1 hex)

Standard American WW2 SMG Submachinegun  – assumed to be the Thompson or Tommy Gun  with effective firing range 150 metres. The later 1944/45 M3 Grease Gun is often shown in many plastic figures with effective firing range / sights set to 91 metres (both sets at 3 inches or 1 hex).

Standard British WW2 LMG light machinegun  – assumed to be the Bren Gun  with effective firing range 550 metres (or 12 inches / 4 hexes).

Standard German WW2 LMG light machinegun  – assumed to be the MG34 with effective firing range of 1200 metres or from 1942 the MG42 with effective firing range 200 to 2000 metres. (As this is potentially over 24 inches / 8 hexes,  this could be standardised to between this  or down to that of the other nations LMGs, 12 inches or 4 inches)

Standard American WW2 LMG light machinegun  – assumed to be the Browning Automatic Rifle BAR with effective firing range 600 metres (or 12 inches / 4 hexes).

The WW1 Lewis Gun was also used early in WW2 mostly with Commonwealth units.

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Peter Laing light mortar men – unpainted British and painted  German c. 1983 matt painting.

Standard British Light Mortar is the 2 inch light mortar (crew of 2) with an effective firing range of 460 metres  (or 12 inches / 4 hexes).

Standard German Light Mortar 50mm / 5cm Granatwerfer 36  light mortar (crew of 2) with an effective firing range of 50 to 500 metres  (or 12 inches / 4 hexes).

Standard American Light Mortar is the 60mm M2 light mortar (crew of 2 -3) with an effective firing range of 180 to 300 metres (or 9 inches or 3 hexes)

Standard British Heavy machinegun HMG is the Vickers (crew of 2-3)  with an effective firing range of 2000 metres (or 48 inches / 16 hexes).

Standard German Heavy machinegun HMG is the WW1 Maxim MG08 (crew of two) with an effective firing range of 2000 metres (or 48 inches / 16 hexes).

Standard American Heavy machinegun HMG is the M2 Browning HMG (crew of 2) with an effective firing range of  1800 metres (or 48 inches / 16 hexes).

Grenades – the German WW1 /WW2  M24 stick grenade had an effective range / throw of around 30 metres, twice that  compared to the British Mills Grenade at 15 metres. You can give them a range effective up to 1 hex.

As can be seen from the similar effective firing ranges of HMGs at around 48 inches or 16 hexes  makes them almost to big for the average small skirmish gaming board.  

Pistols – The  Webley British pistol had an effective range of only about 50 yards / 45 metres. The German Luger equivalent also had an effective firing range of about 50 metres. American officers may have carried a range of revolvers including the semiautomatic M1911 pistol . These are effectively melee weapons but you can give them a range effective up to 1 hex.

Scaling up to 54mm skirmish games

As Featherstone was playing / writing rules in War Games using 20 to 30mm figures, and we have been pushing this down to 15mm, scaling up to 54mm skirmish games in the tabletop of the garden could for simplicity require a simple doubling of the inches or hexes noted. A rifle in 54mm games could therefore fire up to 24 inches (two feet) or 8 hexes, easily achievable in the garden / yarden.

Weapons of other nations

Peter Laing sadly did not make WW2 Soviets, Japanese, jungle or desert troops. However items from his WW1 range could be used or simple paint conversions done, which Peter Laing’s simple figures lend themselves well to. His WW1 German infantry paint up well as long trousered  Afrika Korps. Tim in his Tim’s Tanks blog has for example painted the Peter Laing American infantry as British paras.

Readers will need to research the respective nation’s weapons or simply adapt the standardised ranges we have for different weapon types carried by whatever troops or figures  you use. Donald Featherstone in his WW2 rules or elsewhere in War Games rarely distinguishes by a nation’s choice of weapons for simplicity’s sake.

What is effective firing range?

All references to firing ranges etc.  are from that excellent, most accurate and occasionally mocked source of knowledge, Wikipedia!

Effective Firing Range and its relation to the further distance /  effective firing ranges of machine guns are explained on http://guns.wikia.com/wiki/Effective_range

Q 19. What is the definition of Maximum Effective Range?
The greatest distance at which a soldier may be expected to deliver a target hit, as defined in http://www.armystudyguide.com/content/army_board_study_guide_topics/m16a2/m16a2-study-guide.shtml

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Peter Laing WW2 German figures (Paint conversion WW1 late war steel helmet infantry) with rifles and bayonets  face three more determined WW2 British Tommies (also from his WW1 range) sappers with entrancing tools (and slung rifles added with tiny slivers of wooden coffee stirrers). Cycle troops – unknown make but good style match for Laing’s figures.

Blogposted by Mr MIN Man of TIN, October 2016

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Author: 26soldiersoftin

Hello I'm Mark Mr MIN, Man of TIN. Based in S.W. Britain, I'm a lifelong collector of "tiny men" and old toy soldiers, whether tin, lead or childhood vintage 1960s and 1970s plastic figures. I randomly collect all scales and periods and "imagi-nations" as well as lead civilians, farm and zoo animals. I enjoy the paint possibilities of cheap poundstore plastic figures as much as the patina of vintage metal figures. Befuddled by the maths of complex boardgames and wargames, I prefer the small scale skirmish simplicity of very early Donald Featherstone rules. To relax, I usually play solo games, often using hex boards. Gaming takes second place to making or convert my own gaming figures from polymer clay (Fimo), home-cast metal figures of many scales or plastic paint conversions. I also collect and game with vintage Peter Laing 15mm metal figures, wishing like many others that I had bought more in the 1980s ...

4 thoughts on “Researching WW2 equipment for rules and ranges”

  1. Looking forward to seeing your final set of rules when you have worked out the answers to all of those questions. I think that you analysis of weapon ranges is about right. ‘Effective fire’ is an interesting term, I suspect here it means likelihood of hitting the target, but effective fire in military terms is usually applied to a group such as a rifle group or machine gun group or battery bringing down fire to have an effect upon the enemy, often the idea is to suppress the enemy allowing another group to manoeuvre. Individual infantrymen are not supposed fire individually on the battlefield, but operate under fire control orders as a group or groups bringing down a weight of aimed fire to achieve effect. When contact is made there will be an initial exchange of sporadic shots, then the commander will seek to identify the target, suppress it by fire, then manoeuvre to deal with it. Not sure how all of this could be reflected in the rules though.

    Those Peter Laing figures are delightful.

    Bob

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  2. Dear Bob,

    Still playtesting so I’m curious to see how this all turns out.

    Thanks for the comments about effective fire / effective firing range. I have been following this up looking at target area versus point area, rifle vs longer range of machine gun, all really interesting stuff.

    My tiny men in these small skirmishes often end up in small packets rather than formations, so individual firing is permitted in this Close Wars. I think that’s one aspect of these simple Featherstone rules that attracted me.

    Still haven’t really worked out what impact loss of officers etc have on proceedings.

    And I have to keep reminding myself that basically I’m playing with toy soldiers …. and what attractive toy soldiers Peter Laing figures are!
    Mark, Man of TIN blog

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  3. Your last three posts have been entertaining and thought provoking. I have recently my Featherstones, Operation Warboard and sundry other more “modern” WW2 rules and have been struggling to decide what I like and what is functional for small scale solo games. Your posts have been useful as have those of John P (Mr Hermit) and Bob Cordery who is always worth reading again on the subject of grid based games. I downloaded a copy of Broadsides to Bullets some time ago following a link provided on Wargames Numbers and Arsing about. I really enjoyed reading these and feel that it would provide a fun game, which, after all is what matters.Thanks again for your posts.

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    1. Chris
      A fun game it certainly is, which is after all what playing with toy soldiers should be. Especially for small scale skirmish solo portable games.
      Glad you enjoyed the posts and especially the picturesf figures, games and terrain a really important part of a blog I think.
      Like you I really enjoy John Patriquin the Wargame Hermit and Bob Cordery’s many and varied posts, along with Ross at Battle Game of the Month and Alan at Tradgardland, they are some of the first ones I go to each time and follow their blog leads.
      I look forward to looking at the other Broadsides & Bullets rules you and Bob mentioned, but they will have to be very very very simple to replace the early Featherstone rules in my mind and affections.
      Thanks for dropping by!
      Mark, Man of TIN blog.

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