Recently I have been improvising a WW2 platoon level version of Donald Featherstone’s ‘Close Wars’ rules. These were originally written as an appendix in his book War Games (1962), as suitable rules for 18th Century redcoat versus tribal natives in a cluttered forest or wooded terrain.
I have been looking for very simple platoon level WW2 game rules, suitable for Peter Laing’s limited 15mm WW2 range, which were designed to give “a most satisfactory infantry action game”
Bolt Action they may not be, but it is interesting to look at the background logic, assumptions, simplifications, mechanisms and whys or wherefores involved to make suitable rules and weapons ranges for your style of game.
These simple rules could be used with WW2 infantry action in wooded or cluttered terrain, where vehicles cannot easily follow such as Normandy ’44 bocage hedged terrain (but without armoured vehicles) or early 1939-40 infantry action, the Bicycle Blitzkreig, the withdrawal to Dunkirk etc.
An Operation Sealion invasion of Britain scenario (1939 /1940/ 1941) is also possible with the few WW2 types that Peter Laing made. (I’m source some of them could double up as The Warmington Home Guard as required.)
Once artillery, heavy machine guns, vehicles and other long range weapons are introduced, the distances and ranges become too big for the smaller game boards and tabletops I work with.
Reference to weapons ranges and other scenario rules (buildings, street fighting etc) as situations emerge can be made to the ‘Simple WW2 rules’ that Donald Featherstone includes in his 1962 book War Games; the Close Wars rules are an appendix to this book (shown at end of blogpost).
Using 20mm plastic figures with a wider range of troop types available gives the possibility of an interesting jungle action of cluttered terrain which could be played with a box of Airfix OO/HO Australian / Gurkha infantry or US Marines and a box of Japanese infantry. Get those palm trees out to replace the fir trees.
1 figure = 1 man in skirmish rules.
Small numbers, small tables, short actions or games time = my style of usually solo game.
Aims or Victory Conditions
The aim of each force (as set out in Featherstone’s Close Wars rules) unless otherwise described is:
1. to seek out and destroy their enemy.
2. Alternatively, to get at least 50% of your troops to the opposite enemy baseline
However for each game, you can set your own scenario end or Victory Conditions.
This usually involves fighting to the last man, but occasionally involves rescuing or escorting to safety civilians, stretcher bearers or secret plans.
Infantry on foot move 6 inches per move or 2 hex / squares.
Uphill – moves up (opposed or unopposed) hills count as 1 hex / squares or half rate move e.g. 3 inches.
Motorised vehicle e.g. motorcycle despatch rider moves 12 inches per move or 4 hex squares off-road (Plus 3 inches / 1 hex on road). Bicycle moves 12 inches on road / 4 hexes, 9 inches / 3 hexes offroad.
Stretcher bearers move 1 hex per move. They are not armed.
If deemed passable, fording streams take 3 inches or 1 hex to cross. Fording places or bridges can be marked out.
Bogs and marshes (if deemed passable) at half speed eg 1 hex square per move. Other impassable features you can introduce include marked minefields.
Moves on clear paths or roads (if they exist) have 3 inch extra or 1 hex extra BONUS per move.
Crossing walls, fences etc or other barriers – as required, throw dice 1-3 yes, 4-6 no; takes 1 hex of a move.
Firing (if range of fire clear)
Range of LMG light machine guns (Bren Gun, MG34) – 12 inches or 4 hexes; throw 1 dice for LMG, full score counts as hits.
Rifles have a range of 12 inches or 4 hexes. Throw one d6 dice per firing man: 6 scores a hit. If firer is under cover or in buildings, 5 or 6 scores a hit on enemy. SMG or Submachine Guns (Sten, Tommy, etc) – 6 inches or 2 hexes; SMG – half dice counts as hits.
Pistols have under 6 inches or 1 hex range. Throw one d6 dice per firing man: 6 scores a hit. If firer is under cover or in buildings, 5 or 6 scores a hit on enemy
HMG (e.g. Maxim gun) – 18 inches or 6 hexes; Featherstone has a Mitrailleuse rule for ACW throw dice 1 to 3 entitles one dice for hits. 4 to 6 entitles 2 dice for hits.
WW1 / WW2 Maxim / heavy machine guns had an effective firing range of up to 2000 metres (effectively 48 inches or 16 hexes) which is too much for our space.
Mortars (2 inch or 50 mm / 60mm) require 2 man crew – target range from 1 hex to 3 hexes. Burst pattern for 50mm mortar is 3 inches or one hex. Roll d6 – if 3,4,5,6 hit target hex; all in nominated hex counted as hit.
Grenades – treat as mortars but with one hex throwing range /burst pattern; all in that square /hex counted as hits. Roll d6 – if 3,4,5,6 – all in nominated hex counted as hit.
Casualty Savings Throws
For each man hit, throw a casualty saving throw.
If fired on, each casualty has a d6 thrown for him. 4,5,6 wounded and carry on. If 123, casualty is dead.
If casualty under cover, 3,4,5,6 wounded and carry on 1,2,3 dead (except for mortar fire where use above as if not under cover)
You can choose to dispense with casualty savings throws if you wish, after firing and /or Melee. This gives a faster game.
Light Field Artillery
To check line of sight / range of fire, the Lionel Tarr reversed periscope can be used for fun to get you down to table top toy soldier eye level.
2 pounder anti tank gun with crew of 3 (British QF) using Featherstone rules counts as LMG throw 1 dice, full score counts as hits.
2 pdr gun if hit by mortar: 10-12 knocked out, 9 knocked out for 2 moves, 8 knocked out for 3 moves. Crew? Casualty savings throws.
Turns consist of four sections:
a) First side moves (possible melee)
b) Other side moves (possible melee)
c) First side fires
d) Other side fires
Throw dice at start of each game turn for each side to see who moves first.
Variations on this include: 1st side Move, 2nd side Fire , 1st side Fire, 2nd side move.
This is the ‘Bish Bash Am-Bush’ bit! Assume each man has something to fight at close hand with (pistols, clubs, rifles, bayonets, entrenching tools, fists or boots, etc)
Remember – We are playing 1:1 scale, each figure represents one man.
Melee is joined when one group of figures invades or faces the other square / hex.
You can add +1 to d6 throw for attacking side (if you choose / remember / can be bothered.) This is what Featherstone calls impetus bonus.
Choose pairs (of attacker vs. defender) and throw 1 d6 for each man involved.
Attacker can have the + 1 added to their d6 dice throw (if you choose / remember / can be bothered).
Highest score wins, loser can throw casualty saving throw* to see if killed 1-3 or only wounded / unharmed 4-6
Continue until each man has been involved in melee.
“Usual dice saving throws for melee Casualties” – Donald Featherstone.
* Or not if you want to speed things up.
Melee Morale Test(if desired / wanted / can be bothered)
At end of melee session, throw d6 for each side to see who wins melee morale test and who loses and retires 1 hex backwards. Some Featherstone versions times the dice by number of each side to come up with a post Melee Morale score.
Then d6 again for losers to see if routed:
Throw 1-3in rout, unable to fire or move further that round, effectively in modern games terms “pinned”. Roll again next move to see if still routed and retreating. A suitable coloured marker can be added to remember this.
or throw 4-6 in good order, retreat only one pace / hex.
Movement and ranges
The original ‘Close Wars’ appendix 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 (over 3 figures) 6 inches in cluttered terrain. Natives carrying less and living off the land etc moved 9 inches.
In cluttered terrain, I assume that a heavily encumbered infantryman in WW2 is still carrying about the same amount of stuff and moving at the same speed as his ancestor in the 18th Century. Hopefully his boots and field rations would have improved though!
I take each 3 inches to be a Heroscape hex square.
Featherstone has a ‘Rifle’ range in his simplified WW2 rules and in Close Wars appendix rules both as 12 inches (which I take to be about 4 hexes) so assuming 500 metres to be 12 inches or 30 centimetres / 300mm, this gives us a rough working scale of a 3 inch hex equals 125 metres.
1 inch equals 42 (41.6) metres
1 centimetre equals 17 metres (or 16.666 metres)
More in our blogpost Researching WW2 equipment ranges, matching the limited weapons ranges shown in the Peter Laing range to the rules.
It is possible to scale this set of rules and ranges up to 54mm skirmish games by simply doubling the ranges etc set out above. This would allow the use of 54mm Airfix, Britain’s Deetail or Pound Store plastic figures; I intend in better weather in future to try these Close Little (World) Wars rules outside as a garden game fought “on the beaches and on the landing grounds …” Sorry, on the flower beds and garden terrain. Could be fun!
I only bought these four sample 15mm World War Two figures from Peter Laing back in the 1980s and now wish I had bought more.
Peter’s range was very limited, British and German infantry and some American infantry which I never bought.
These Peter Laing metal 15mm figures had to compete for my limited pocket money with the burgeoning and cheaper 20mm plastic figure scene (Matchbox, Esci, Atlantic, erratic Airfix) in the 1980s. I wish now that I had chosen differently, although my love of cheap plastic figures still extends to Vintage Airfix, Britain’s Deetail (not so cheap), Atlantic Wild West figures and pirated / pound store plastic warriors.
Luckily I am now collecting and painting my way towards Peter Laing WW2 infantry tiny skirmish games “at platoon level … To give a most satisfactory infantry action game” as Peter Laing describes it in his catalogue.
I have been lucky enough to spot some distinctive Peter Laing WW1 and WW2 figures in job lots of other 15mm figures recently.
As Peter Laing didn’t make vehicles for WW2, I intend using the troops as he intended “at Platoon level” wood field and forest bocage bolt action and bayonet game version on suitably cluttered terrain hex boards of my usual Little Close Wars games.
The bulk of the WW1 Peter Laing Germans in my collection are wearing Steel Helmets and carrying rifles, so will easily suit. A couple of Peter Laing WW1 maxim guns F746 and loader gunners F747 will pass muster for German Machine Gunners with Steel Helmets.
These rules for natives versus troops will require a little alteration to incorporate machine guns, light mortars, small field guns and motor cycles! No natives but plenty of awkward terrain and no vehicles. Still an infantry slog!
The various WW1, native and late Colonial figures I have would also make an interesting African campaign:
” Few collectors seem interested in World War 1 , although there is much of value to be found in the battles of 1914 and 1915, before the war bogged down in a mass of trench warfare – a fascinating little campaign can be made of the German East Africa fighting in which natives can be used.” Donald Featherstone, War Games (1962) , p. 20.
These figures came with a small online job-lot of what may be Peter Pig 15mm WW2 figures, some of which are similar in style and scale to Peter Laing figures. There are a number of peaked cap officers, some French resistance ladies and some paratroops with bikes to add some variety. It may be possible to mix a few of these in as needed with the Peter Laing figures. Peter Laing purists, look away now!
I even have a few surviving unmade card sheets of John Mitchell’s card buildings to make up to match Peter Laing’s catalogue suggestion that “these items can be used in conjunction with John Mitchell’s building sheets … to give a most satisfactory infantry action game.”
A lovely couple of posts on the Tims Tanks blog about meeting with Peter Laing and showing some of his WW1 / WW 2 range. I too found Peter Laing was always very helpful, encouraging and efficient dealing with young gamers with small pocket money orders by post. Often Peter included a free sample figure or two from his new ranges to offset breakages and postage costs – and no doubt to tempt more purchases. Smart marketing!
Note some interesting post blog comments (June 2016) that the elusive Peter Laing moulds may have turned up in the collections of the late John Mitchell with many Peter Laing figure fans interested in re-establishing these ranges. Me too!