Thursday, November 19, 2015

Pseudo-Tactical Simulation

I picked up "Professor Badger's Quasi-whimsical Pseudo-Tactical Simulation of Military Encounters of a Science Fiction Persuasion at the Company Level" by impulse, as it was offered at a deep discount from the already low regular price. Besides, who could resist such an intriguing title?

The rules are set in 10 pages plus cover, in what one might call a "no-nonsense" style: The first paragraph gets straight to starting the game, of which you know nothing about in your first read. After that come turn structure, unit actions, unit definitions and their stats, unit creation rules and three scenarios.

The forces created to test the game.
Visually, the book could have been improved in layout and would gain a lot from the inclusion of some diagrams or pictures, for instance, in the scenario descriptions. The writing is too concise (and there are also a number of typos and mistakes around), and some examples of the rules and unit creation would be helpful.

It took me three reads to get the rules, due to the problems above (and I am not sure if someone new to miniature games would understand the game enough to play it.) Still, once I was done, the important question became: "how does it play?"

The first step was to create some units. The rules allow the creation of infantry squads and vehicles. These are then combined into infantry platoons and vehicle platoons. I made a regular squad of soldiers and a medium attack vehicle, considering the limits to unit stats.

Infantry squad (Trained, armed with assault rifles)
AIM 4 / STR 2 / ARM 3 / MLE 7 - 14 points per squad

Battle tank (Trained, with a light gun and HMG, movement type: tracked)
AIM 6 / STR 4 / ARM 5 / MLE 8 - 28 points per tank

Then I created two opposing forces using these units, each one adding to 336 points:

2 infantry platoons, 4 squads per platoon (including command)
2 tank platoons, 4 tanks per platoon (including command)

2 infantry platoons, 3 squads per platoon (including command)
3 tank platoons, 3 tanks per platoon (including command)

And finally I put them to fight each other in a board with some rough terrain, using the basic victory condition (80% casualties). I played with reduced scale counters (equivalent to 6mm miniatures), measuring distances in centimeters on a 60cm x 90cm board. With assault rifle fire reaching 50cm (or 50" in the rules), the board still felt a bit small.

Setup for my test battle.
A few remarks about the rules: activation is per squad or single vehicle, and based on card draws. It is therefore possible that one side activates three squads in a row before play passes to the enemy. Combat is resolved with each side rolling a die and adding modifiers given by the units and context. Morale checks are performed on specific circumstances.

While playing, I assumed that suppression and fatigue only affected infantry units, and that the "fire and maneuver" option was only available to infantry squads, too. There were a few other questions raised:

  • What are the arcs of fire of units? I adopted the usual 45 degrees to either side but I am not sure if this is the case. 
  • When do the forced moves caused by failed morale tests happen? Some of them explicitly state that they happen immediately, others do not.
  • How does line of sight interact with broken terrain, cover and elevations? This is a point in which different rule sets tend to disagree, so I am not sure about the approach here. 

"Professor Badger's..." is a light game that delivers what it promises in its long title. Do not expect detailed modeling of unit profiles for various alien races or special equipment: this is mostly sci-fi human (or human-like alien) grunts and tanks, with some options to add variety. However, it did work well, fast and did not feel overly simplistic. It also does not require many counters on the table (only to mark hunkered down and damaged units.)

I really wish the author creates a revised version of the game, including more examples and adding a little more detail in all areas.

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