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.
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)
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 complex. Featherstone 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.
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.
“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)
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)
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 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.
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
Blogposted by Mr MIN Man of TIN, October 2016