More sets of rules for gaming battles on the horizon

20 February 2020

With our book “Building Rules for Gaming Battles” in the process of being edited, I have been working on several rule sets to see if they can be used across a broad church of historical eras.

We now have in draft or building sets for the following centuries.

• 17th Century - 1644 The Battle of Cropredy Bridge
• 18th Century - 1775 The Battle of Bunker Hill
• 19th Century - 1876 The Battle of the Little Big Horn
• 20th Century - 1944 The Battle for Normandy, WW2

I think the templates approach works across many types of warfare and hopefully our draft sets will prove the rule as we move through them. Once these are settled in we may have an ancient's battle in our sights.

I have designed the Fire and Move rules for gaming battles to capture the nature of troop (or platoon) tank actions, mainly in the western theatre of war in and around Normandy in 1944.

I found that individual tank actions were fairly rare, with most encounters being between one or more companies of tanks and involved several troops or platoons. We have therefore focused on that level of command. Each Troop has a command tank with several other tanks in the troop organisation, these are a part of Squadron (or Company) of several troops.

This give us the opportunity to play a game of thrust and counter thrust at the troop and squadron level. One of the sources we used is Ken Tout, who served as an NCO in the 1st Northamptonshire Yeomanry and fought in Sherman tanks. Tout’s books are very good at getting over the intensity of tank combat and have been rated as some of the best books on the Second World War.

Ken Tout tank commander

What follows is an extract of an encounter with three Tiger Tanks from one of Ken Tout's books - A Fine Night for Tanks: The Road to Falaise (pp. 115-116). Endeavour Media. Kindle Edition:

“‘Hullo, William 3 Charlie. Figures three nasties range twelve hundred alongside road. Look like Tigers. 3 Charlie, over.’ The very slightly raised voice of ‘A’ Squadron’s Sgt Gordon ushered in the time of fatal gambles among the orchards. Three Tigers! Only a few weeks earlier one lone Tiger had knocked out twenty tanks of another Yeomanry regiment. The Totalizator would surely set odds of 15 to 3 in this instance.

The voice of Capt Tom Boardman, now well-known from his Night March conversations, ordered Gordon to hold fire while a plan was quickly concocted. Three of the 53-ton Tiger tanks, the most feared weapon in Normandy, were moving slowly parallel and near to the main road from Caen to Falaise. Their guns were traversed left to cover the far side of the road. Gordon’s troop, commanded by Lt James, was therefore lurking in the orchards on the right of the Tigers.

The German tank commanders appeared to feel that they were sheltered on their left by the trees beside the main road and by the road itself which was slightly raised at that point. None of the three Tigers appeared to be watching out to the right. Arriving close to Lt James, Capt Boardman ordered the three 75 mm Shermans, plus his own, to ‘pepper’ the turrets of the Tigers. The 75 mm shot would have little effect on the Tiger armour but would make the commanders close down (Button-Up) and restrict themselves to periscope view. Gordon’s Firefly would then shoot at the rearmost Tiger.

In 3 Charlie Firefly, Joe Ekins, the shoe clicker from Bedfordshire, lined up his sights and, as the Tigers prowled to within about 800 yards, Boardman gave the order to fire. At 12.40 hours Ekin’s boot trod on the trigger button and the immense flash of the Firefly wrapped itself around the turret. Gordon and Ekins blinked deliberately and then opened their eyes to see the shot strike the enemy turret. Ekins fired again. The Tiger started to burn.

Immediately the other two Tigers alerted began feverishly to traverse their 88 mm guns towards the Yeomanry. One Tiger fired and Gordon ordered his tank to reverse so that he could find other cover from which to resume firing. A third Tiger shot glanced on the turret hatch of the Firefly, doing no material damage but smashing the heavy steel plate against Gordon’s head. Gordon staggered out of the tank and was wounded by a random mortar bomb. Lt James ran to Gordon’s tank, guided the driver into a new firing position under the apple trees and gave the fire order. 12.47 hours - one shot from Ekins and the Tiger’s turret exploded. 

The 75 mm Shermans appeared to have done some kind of damage to the third Tiger, possibly smashing the commander’s periscope, for the tank seemed to be circling as though looking for escape from the open field in which it found itself. 12.52 hours - and two more shots from Ekins. The third Tiger started to burn. In Ekins’ own words ‘this all happened in about 12 minutes. All I was thinking was “get them before they get us”. I fired twice [at the third Tiger]. He started burning. We reversed into cover.”