Deep Battle Design Notes 4 – Musing on Logistics and Supply Rules

Logistics was one the criteria I used in my Review of Wargaming Rules I could use for the Operational Level of War. To be considered Operational the game includes rules to penalise troops that are out of supply. So Deep Battle, my as yet unwritten Operational Level wargaming rules, has to have a logistical system. The game systems I reviewed offer lots of inspiration for my own logistical system.

P1030783 long range logistics

P1030783 long range logistics


Logistics = Name of Rally Phase

Logistics in Panzer Korps only appears to be covered in a very nominal fashion. The only logistics in the game appears to be the name of a phase. The “Logistics Phase” is used to recover panicked units and check unit integrity. There are no supply bases. No lines of supply.


Logistics = Supply Base as Objective

In Kiss Rommel and High Command supply is only used in the victory conditions, effectively Supply Bases are location objectives. There is no impact of losing a Supply Base during the game.

I’ll use Kiss Rommel to highlight how this works. The Kiss Rommel tactical table is divided into a 4 x 4 grid with each zone being 12″ x 12″. Three of the four zones on the Axis table edge are “Axis Supply”; similarly “British Supply”. A Supply Base model (tent or truck) goes in each supply zone. If one side destroys all three enemy Supply Bases that side can claim an immediate Major Victory. Otherwise victory depends on Victory Points (VP): 1 VP for each enemy unit destroyed and 5 VP for each Supply Base destroyed.

High Command is pretty similar. The differences are minor:

  • High Command has a 5 x 4 grid although there are still only 3 Supply Bases per side
  • Victory Points (VPs) are: 3 VP for Heavy Tank unit; 2 VP Tank or Artillery (88mm); 5 VP for Supply base; 1 VP for others

Logistics = Losing Supply Base Reduces Combat Ability

Pz8 Division (within the Rules Collection v3) and Hurrah Stalino are one step up from Supply Base as Objective. Losing the Supply Base has an effect on combat ability during the game. However, this is a bit all or nothing; you have supplies until you lose your Supply Base and then you don’t have supplies for the rest of the game. There is nothing about trying to maintain on-going supply lines. And In Pz8 there is nothing unique about losing supply bases; the same outcome happens if you lose a terrain objective e.g. crossroads.

Objectives in Pz8 are either logistical or tactical objectives and include supply bases (actually the rules says “deposit” but think they mean “depot”), urban centres, bridges, crossroads. Losing an objective to the enemy imposes makes rallying harder for all friendly units (-1 to Rally die rolls); successfully rallying removes a Fatigue Point to most units or adds 1 turn of fire to artillery.

In Hurrah Stalino each corps or army has a supply base (actually “supply dump”) in a rear area sector (in a 3″ x3″ square grid). Losing a supply dump makes assault and ranged fire actions hard (-1 die).


Logistics = Supply Line via Logistics Unit

In Bloody Big World War Two Battles (BBWW2B) an intact logistics unit allows a unit to recover from Low on Ammunition status. There must be an open supply line between the checking unit and the logistics stand and the two units must share the same superior unit (division or regiment/brigade). Logistics units have a combat strength due to representing “the cooks and bottle washers” in the second echelon.

During the night interval Logistics units go Low on Ammunition themselves if they cannot trace a supply line to a point where a road enters along a “friendly” table edge (which other rules would call a Supply Base).

P1030784 russian supply wagons

P1030784 russian supply wagons


Logistics = HQ needs a Supply Line

Division Commander has a full logistical system revolving around Supply Bases, which in this system are called “Supply and Command Centers (SCC)”. Each division has a SCC on the the friendly table edge or on a road that leads to the friendly table edge.

A HQ is in supply if there is a road within its command radius (9”) that leads to the Division’s SCC. Being out of supply makes it much harder to Recover Dispersed units, Rally Disordered units and Motivate Deployed units (a -3 modifier to the 1d6 Recovery Test).

Losing the SCC increases the “Friction Factor” (+3) which reduces the number of commands the Division has each turn. Capturing enemy SCC provides victory points (defender gets +5 VP for capturing an attacking division’s SCC; attacker gets +10 for capturing a defender’s SCC)


Logistics = Supply Line or Air Lifted Supplies

In Hell’s Gate units are at their best when in supply. Supply lines are traced through friendly controlled regions to supply bases on the friendly base edge. Out of supply units suffer a penalty in combat.

Hell’s Gate also offers air lifted supplies via an airfield. The original scenario is for the Korsun Pocket 1944 and the airfield at Korsun was crucial for keeping the pocket supplied.


Logistics = Supply Line and Prepared Offensives

As with some of the game systems above, in Drive on Moscow units also need a supply line traced through friendly controlled regions to supply bases on the friendly base edge. Out of supply units suffer a penalty in combat. If the supply situation worsens, and a unit becomes isolated and cannot fight. If supply deteriorates further then then isolated units starts to suffer losses.

But Drive on Moscow also offers Prepared Offensives. These represent a stockpile of supplies and troops kept in reserve for a big push. They make the big offensives much more effective than normal turns.

Finally Drive on Moscow has an Air Interdiction option which, although it isn’t directly related to supply, has a similar effect to putting the target out of supply.


Logistics = Supply Line via Logistic Units and Logistic Endurance

PanzerGruppe is only two pages long but still manages to pack in a very comprehensive logistics system. The unique aspect is “logistic endurance” – the ability to endure the lack of supplies. And the best bit … it does not involve accounting.

P1030799 Russian lend lease Dodge truck

P1030799 Russian lend lease Dodge truck

Summary

A unit has three supply states: supplied, low supply, and isolated. A unit is supplied if it can trace a supply line otherwise the unit is either low supply or isolated depending on its logistic endurance. Logistic endurance is a rating (poor, average, good) that dictates how long the unit can survive on low supply before becoming isolated.

Supply Line

To be supplied units must trace a supply line (called a “supply route”) have supply source within its normal disengaged (fast) move. Supply lines can only be traced through friendly territory. A supply source can either be a supply base (called a “supply head”) or a supplied logistic unit (truck, cart). Effectively logistic units extend supply range and a supply line might have a chain of logistic units. Logistic units have no combat value and automatically retreat from combat, lose 1 SP in the process and cannot function at 0 SP.

Outrunning Supply

Units can outrun their supply status. The control of roads, i.e. whether they are friendly territory or enemy territory, is checked at the start of the day. So an advancing unit can easily move onto an enemy controlled road during a game turn. Units check supply status at the end of the day. This sequence means advancing units can easily outrun their supply lines.

Logistic endurance

Logistic endurance dictates how long a unit can exist on low supply before becoming isolated.

Logistic endurance low supply or isolated
Poor become isolated at once
Average become low supply on day one, then two isolated on day two
Good no effect day one, low supply day two, isolated day three

Effects of supply

The following table summarises the criteria that determine the supply status and the game effects (movement, combat, reorganisation)

Supply Status Supply Line Logistic Endurance Movement Effect Combat Effect Reorganisation Effect
Supplied can trace supply line Normal movement Normal combat Recover 1SP if stationary and out of enemy ZOC
Low supply cannot trace supply Logistic endurance is okay May only move as engaged (i.e. slow) Attack halved, no artillery fire possible None
Isolated cannot trace supply Logistic endurance is exhausted May only retreat (engaged) Defence halved, no attack possible None

Logistics = LOG POL accounting

The logistics system of Not Quite Mechanised (NQM) inspired that of Megablitz and from there Hexblitz and Assault Gun. These are full scale logistical accounting mechanisms including logistical units transporting supplies on table. I’ll briefly describe NQM then spend a bit more time on Megablitz.

In Not Quite Mechanised (NQM) a Divisional Logistic Unit (DIV LOG) supplies enough food, spare parts, socks and ammunition for a division, independent regiment or brigade-sized unit. A Divisional Fuel Unit (DIV POL) supplies enough Fuel to keep a tracked division or independent tracked regiment or brigade running for one Day. The rules cover moving supply forward from Corps level supply dumps to division and then to the front line units.

Megablitz has two types of supplies: Logistics (LOG) or Petrol-Oil-Lubricants (POL). Logistics stands (lots of trucks) are rated for both capacity and how much stuff they are actually carrying (LOG/POL). By default the capacity is the same as the LOG/POL it was originally carrying. LOG/POL get consumed during the Overnight Phase for per day consumption (1 LOG for divisions and artillery regiments; 1 POL for armoured divisions and Tiger companies) and at the end of the Combat Phase for per turn consumption (1 LOG for divisions attacking in built up areas). Units that consume LOG/POL have a logistical unit attached to supply the LOG/POL. Logistical units are resupplied overnight from off table. The rules are not clear how resupply occurs but Rule Clarifications and House Rules for Megablitz recommend a couple of options: (1) moving the LOG/POL around; (2) setting up a supply chain from the friendly table edge via logistical units on the roads.

Megablitz has several supply states: Normal, Low, Isolated, Cut off, Spent. This is my version of the Supply State Effects table (from Rule Clarifications and House Rules for Megablitz):

Cause Supply State Effect
Stand’s logistic stand has the necessary LOG or POL? Stand can trace an unblocked route to it’s logistic stand? Route to the logistic stand is less than or equal to two turns movement of the Logistic stand? Nights without supply? *** Marker Colour Orders allowed Combat Surrender when
Yes Yes Yes Normal None SMART Normal SP = 0
Yes Yes No ** Low Blue SART Normal SP = 0
Yes No * Isolated Pink SAR SP halved in attack SP = 0
No 1 Cut Off Red SR Cannot initiate combat SP = 0 or no prospect of resupply
No 2+ Spent Yellow SR Cannot initiate combat; SP halved in defence SP = 0 or no prospect of resupply

Hexblitz tweaks’s the logistic system of Megablitz. The biggest change is that it dumps POL and separate artillery ammunition LOG. An infantry division consumes 1 LOG every 24 hours (Soviet Infantry Divisions consume 1/2 LOG), a Motorised Division consumes 2 LOG, and an Armoured Division consumes 3 LOG.

Assault Gun also has a logistics system based on Megablitz. 1 LOG is consumed overnight but only for divisions that fought (attack or defence). Divisions with no LOG can still move, recce, and fight, but will not be as effective. Special Forces (Rangers, Commandos, SAS, etc.). These elite units do not need LOG allocated and are assumed to always have LOG at all times.

DivTac has a similar system. In DivTact supply is represented by logistic units and supply dumps. Supply dumps are placed at nodes on the track/road/rail network. At the cost of an HQ point, Logistic units (a lorry or horse drawn wagon) move one supply point forward on road/tracks. One supply point allows one Infantry Brigade, Armoured Battalion, or Artillery Company to attack. Defending units, on hold orders, do not need to expend this point, and artillery requirements are reduced if firing some missions. Over supply gives a combat bonus.


Conclusions

My Review of Wargaming Rules I could use for the Operational Level of War certainly offered lots of inspiration for my own logistical system. I’m not sure just yet what to do just yet but I have some ideas.

I’m inclined to use supply bases on the edge and a supply line. I’m uncertain whether the supply line has to have logistical units forming a chain. I’m also not sure if HQ units have a role in the supply chain. Both are possible, and would certainly add visual appeal, but I’m not sure the complexity is warranted.

PanzerGruppe’s idea of rating units on their logistical endurance is very clever. It means some units can survive without supply longer than others. Possibilities for better logistical endurance would be airborne units, Soviets in general, and Soviet cavalry in particular.

I like the idea of have supply limit the range of armoured units. The question is how. Megablitz’s concept of POL is a bit too fiddly for me (along with logistical accounting in general). More interesting are Drive on Moscow’s fuel shortage and PanzerGruppe’s clever road control mechanism.

The concept of a prepared offensive, using a stockpile of supplies and reserves, is also very tempting. An idea from Drive on Moscow.

In terms of airpower, I like the air interdiction of Drive on Moscow and air lifted supplies of Hell’s Gate.

I don’t like the idea of a supply base as, merely, an objective. Nor do I believe that losing the supply base is the moment when the combat units would lose their combat ability. Instead I think it is more about losing their supply line.

And, as I said above, I don’t like the logistical accounting of Megablitz, Assault Gun, HexBlitz and NQM. I’ve played Megablitz a few times, and it works, but I’m not convinced it is essential to have this level of detail in the supply system.

2 comments to Deep Battle Design Notes 4 – Musing on Logistics and Supply Rules

  • Some excellent points and very thorough analysis as usual. I hadn’t realised how elegant the PanzerGruppe system was until you’re described it; and yes, ‘no accounting’ is always a positive step in terms of what you are developing here.

    I had considered a movable logistics ‘centre’ as part of the Hexblitz rules – which would thereby make it a target for enemy flanking movements (for an Operation Market Garden game), but it felt very contrived. You’ve certainly hit the crux of an operational game’s main focus with your analysis here. Very interesting.

    I guess the other main issue with accounting style rules, is that they remove the ‘game’ nature from the play, and create work not directly related to operational maneuvers.

    • Steven Thomas

      I’d definitely prefer to focus on operational decision making rather than game accounting. But we’ll see if I manage to achieve this with Deep Battle.

Leave a Reply