Firestorm Campaign

The Firestorm Campaigning system is from the BattleFront crew. I haven’t actually seen Firestorm Bagration – the book with the campaign system in it – but there is a fair bit publically available and it is fairly easy to fill in the gaps. I wanted to figure out whether the system would be applicable to game systems other than Flames of War, specifically Crossfire, so this page is what I could deduce about the campaign system from what I could find and filling the gaps myself.

A word about scale

The system allows you to refight a historical campaign operation or battle that may have involved several armies, corps or divisions, using only the forces required for a company level game. In fact you’ll find divisions represented by mere platoons on the table-top. Now if you can get past that read on …

Setting up a campaign

Some stuff has to happen before the campaign starts. This is a lot easier if you’re using an existing campaign (e.g. Firestorm Bagration, Firestorm Warsaw, Struggle for Stalingrad: September 1942). Failing that somebody (the organiser) has to do the ground work.

Choose the setting

The campaign needs a setting. Operation Bagration 1944, Warsaw 1944, Stalingrad 1942 have all been been done by others so you’ll save some work if you pick one of those. But any setting will do if you’ve the will.

One side will be the strategic aggressors. This has implications for the sequence of play.

Get Players

Every campaign needs some players. The roles are:

  • Organiser – one for the campaign
  • Commander in Chief (C-in-C) – one for each side
  • Commander – as many as possible

Most players are commanders. The organiser, not surprisingly, organises the campaign but might also play in the campaign. Most of the set up is done by the organiser. A C-in-C leads a team of players during the campaign. A C-in-C has some high level tasks to perform but is also a commander.

Draw a Map

A Firestorm campaign needs a map. The map shows the strategic situation including the impact of the tabletop battles. The map has:

  • The areas being fought over. Each area has a name, a terrain type, and a victory point value. Significant rivers will define the borders of some or all of these areas. Key cities will be areas as well although it is possible for the entire map to be inside a single city (e.g. Stalingrad or Warsaw). The map needs to show any railway lines as these facilitate supply and rapid redeployment of troops. Some areas are supply depots; typically these are on railway lines near the edge of the map. Some areas are reinforcement depots; by default all supply depots are also reinforcement depots. Terrain types are plain, urban, forest, hill, and marsh. For Flames of War typical victory points for an area are 0, 5, 10, 20, 30, and 50.
  • A reinforcement pool for each side. Destroyed bonus troops are placed in the appropriate reinforcement pool before be rebuilt and re-entering play.
  • Optional reserve areas if appropriate for the campaign. These are essentially off-map areas from which one side or the other can launch attacks onto the map. Only bonus troops of the appropriate nationality can be placed in reserve areas. These areas cannot be attacked, so can not be captured, and are not worth any victory points anyway.
  • A turn indicator.
  • A victory point indicator.

Raise Troops

A Firestorm campaign distinguishes between player’s core troops and bonus troops The player uses their core troops to fight the table-top battles however they can be reinforced by the bonus troops depending on the situation on the campaign map. Player’s core troops represent the bulk standard front line unit such as infantry battalions. The bonus troops represent the main combat units that provided the offensive punch in the historical campaign. The player’s core troops are not shown on the campaign map but the bonus troops are.

Core Troops

A commander’s core troops are their normal table-top miniatures army. The player fields a new full strength force in each table-top battle on the assumption the force has recovered from previous losses. Really this is a mechanism to give previously defeated players a chance to continue to enjoy themselves and encourage them to fight on. You can define “full strength” as anything you like but smaller games are more manageable for a campaign. The campaign organiser may or may not set limits on the point size of the core troops but it must equal that of the opponent in any table-top battle.

  • Flames of War recommend 800-1000 point games.
  • For Crossfire I suggest 80-100 points, i.e. a company with supports.

Bonus Troops

Bonus troops – the “Firestorm” troops of the title – are the main combat units involved in the historical campaign. They provide additional combat power beyond that normally found in a front-line area. A player fighting in an area with bonus troops can draw upon these to get additional free troops to supplement their core force in any tabletop battle that occurs.

The characteristics and organisation of the bonus troops are documented at the start of the campaign. Typically a bonus troop counter converts to a platoon on the table-top (say 20-30 points in Crossfire) Try to maintain the historical troop ratios for tanks, artillery, and aircraft. Similarly for the ratios of more mobile troops such as tanks, mechanized and Cavalry. Bonus troops are the only way to get air support during a table-top game.

If, during a table-top game, you do not have the appropriate models for specific bonus troops then use the most appropriate models in your collection and mark them somehow as a “Proxy” marker.

Some campaign settings will have supplementary reinforcements. These are bonus troops that are not present at the start of the campaign but appear on a particular turn.

The organiser has to decide how many victory points each type of bonus troops are worth if captured. Typically 5 or 10 victory points each in Flames of War.

Get counters

You’ll need counters to use on the map. These counters you need are:

  • Bonus troops counters: Cardboard counters will do but FireStorm Bagration uses 1/300th scale (5-6mm) models for vehicles, 1,200th scale planes, and 15mm infantry as the counters.
  • Control markers for each nationality. These indicate who currently controls an area.
  • Turn marker
  • Victory point marker
  • Proxy marker: these are used when you don’t have the right models to field on the table

Choose Campaign Length

A Firestorm campaign runs for a limited number of turns (four to six). Typically game turns, including associated table-top battles, are played in one real week with all games being played in one gaming session. The limited number of turns and time frame ensures the players retain enthusiasm until the, usually decisive, end. Nominally each campaign turn is two historical weeks.

Sequence of play

The sequence of play for a game turn is:

  1. Planning Phase
  2. Battle Phase
    1. Manoeuvre Step (for each battle)
      1. Find opponent
      2. Determine initiative
      3. Locate battle
      4. Assign attacking troops
      5. Assign defending troops
      6. Calculate supply
    2. Combat Step (in the same order as Manoeuvre Step)
      1. Identify table-top mission
      2. Fight table-top battle
    3. After Action Step (in the same order as Manoeuvre Step)
      1. Roll to destroy bonus troops
      2. Retreat defeated troops
      3. Advance victorious troops
  3. Strategic Phase (with strategic aggressor going first in each sub-phase)
    1. Reinforcements arrive
    2. Naval landings
      1. Form convoy
      2. Order air interdiction mission
      3. Assign friendly air cover
      4. Resolve convoy success
    3. Strategic moves
    4. Exploitation moves
    5. Calculate victory points
    6. Move turn marker

1. Planning Phase

Each C-in-C makes their battle plan for the campaign turn These must be documented (often this is a copy of the map with attack arrows and some notes) and published (i.e. pinned to wall or photocopied and handed out). Finally the C-in-C briefs the commanders on the battle plan.

2. Battle Phase

The individual Commanders execute the plans by playing table-top games.

2.1. Manoeuvre Step

The commanders fight table-top battles to advance their armies on the campaign map. There is no limit to the number of games that can be played and each commander can participate in as many battles as they want to. That’s why it is important to have a real time limit of a week … players can only fit so many games into one week.

2.1.2. Find opponent

The commanders from both teams go looking for opponents to fight a battle against. Ideally the opponent will be a commander from the opposing team, but they could be from the friendly team, or somebody who isn’t even in the campaign.

2.1.3. Determine initiative

The opposing commanders roll 1d6 each. Higher wins initiative. The campaign will specify how to handle draws. This might be that both commanders roll again until a somebody wins initiative or that the strategic aggessor automatically wins initiative for a draw. Some campaign modules will give a modifier to the initiative roll, for example, +1 for the strategic aggressor.

2.1.4. Locate battle (place attack arrow)

A commander that wins initiative chooses which friendly area to attack from and which adjacent enemy controlled area to attack into. They have to let the other players know, particularly their own C-in-C. The convention is to place an attack arrow on the map to represent this battle. The organiser needs to record the order in which battle arrows are placed as this is significant later.

It is a good idea to consider supply and the availability of bonus troops before deciding where to attack.

A commander may not place their battle arrow between two areas currently linked with a another battle arrow, however, they can otherwise launch an attack into or out of an area that already has a battle arrow.

2.1.5. Assign attacking troops

The attacker gets their core troops plus bonus troops. The organiser might put restrictions on core troops but in principle they can be anything as long as both sizes have the same number of points. The attacker then selects zero, one or two bonus troops from the area they are attacking from. Place the markers for the bonus troops on the battle arrow on the map. Normally aircraft bonus troops cannot be selected if the battle occurs in a city however a specific campaign module may overrule this restriction. You do not need to have bonus troops to attack.

2.1.6. Assign defending troops

Now the defender does the same, choosing their core troops, and selecting up to two bonus troops from the area they are defending.

2.1.7. Supply

Troops need to be in supply to operate effectively. Supply is based on the area where your troops are physically located before the attack.

Normally areas/troops are in supply if any of these apply:

  • An area is in supply if it is connected to a friendly supply depot by a continuous rail line through friendly-controlled areas.
  • Engineer bonus troops are in supply if they are in an area adjacent to an area that is in supply.
  • Any bonus troops are in supply if they are in the same area as, or an area adjacent to, engineer bonus troops that are themselves in supply.

Some campaign modules vary the basic supply rules. For example both Firestorm Warsaw and the Struggle for Stalingrad ignore railway lines for supply. Firestorm Warsaw assumes all areas/troops are in supply. Struggle for Stalingrad specifies that an area is in supply if it is connected to a friendly supply depot by a continuous chain of friendly-controlled areas.

If their area is out of supply, the Commander rolls on the Out of Supply Table to determine the effect on their force. The example is based on that from BattleFront: Firestorm Market Garden Resources (PDF):

Out of Supply Table
Roll Effects
1-2 Morale reduced for duration of game. For example in Crossfire this could mean Veteran become Regular and Regular become Green; Green would take an additional -1 modifier to rally and close combat rolls.
3-4 Strength reduced for the game. Points for Core troops are reduced by 20% but Bonus troops are unaffected. The reduction basically means less stands, but for Forward Observers (FO) in Crossfire you could keep the same number of FOs and reduce the number of Fire Missions (FM) available to each.
5 No effect
6 Fight to death. Morale increased for the duration of the game. In Crossfire, for example, I would give all troops a +1 modifier to rally; this modifier would not apply to close combat.

2.2. Combat Step 

All of the above is really just to set the context for a table-top battle. Commanders earn victory points based on the outcome of the battle.

2.2.1. Identify Table-Top Mission

There are several ways to decide the mission:

  • The opposing commanders agree on the mission
  • Use some random method with the player with initiative rolling the die
  • Organiser chooses the mission

Whatever the method of choosing the mission should reflect which player has initiative, the terrain of the area, and perhaps the supply state of the forces involved. For Crossfire you can check out my Missions in the Scenario Guidelines.

2.2.2. Fight Table-top Battles

Fight the battle using your preferred set of rules. I categorise the possible outcomes as draw (more or less) or a minor, major or massive victory. Somebody should note the outcome.

2.3. After Action Steps

This is where the players figure out the consequences of the battle.

2.3.1. Roll to destroy bonus troops

The opposing commander rolls 1d6 for each bonus troops unit used in the battle regardless of its fate during the game. The score needed to destroy bonus troops is given on the Roll to Destroy table and depends on the number of victory points scored. They may have been lost in the table-top battle or as part of the resulting retreat. Bonus troops destroyed on table but not destroyed in the action action steps are assumed to have been replaced by local reserves. Place destroyed bonus troops in the reinforcement pool of its respective side. They will return in the reinforcement step in the strategic phase of the next campaign turn.

Roll to Destroy Table
Level of Victory Roll to Destroy losing bonus troops Roll to Destroy winning bonus troops
Massive 4+ No roll
Major 5+ No roll
Minor 6 No roll
Draw (more or less) 6 6

2.3.2. Retreat defeated troops

After rolling for destruction, all remaining bonus troops in the defeated commander’s area must retreat. They can move to any adjacent area, or adjacent reserve area, under friendly control.

If there are no valid areas to retreat into then all of the bonus troops in the area, including any that would normally be destroyed, are captured instead and permanently removed from the campaign. This earns the victorious commander extra victory points. Report the capture of these bonus troops to your C-in-C to the later calculating victory points step.

2.3.3. Advance victorious troops

The victorious commander then:

  • Places a control marker on their new area
  • Moves any surviving bonus troops used in the recent battle into the newly-controlled area
  • from adjacent areas.
  • Moves more bonus troops, in an adjacent area, into the newly conquered area (up to four total including the battle survivors).
  • Decides if they want to launch another attack from this area, assuming there is sufficient time in this turn and they can find a willing opponent.

2.3.4. Remove battle arrow

Finally the victorious commander should remove the battle arrow from the campaign map. If there are multiple simultaneous battles in one of the areas, only remove a battle arrow when any earlier battles have been resolved including completing the after action step for that battle. This is why the organiser had to note the order in which battle arrows were placed.

3. Strategic Phase

The C-in-Cs reorganise their forces in the strategic phase ready for the next campaign turn. The strategic aggressor performs each sub-phase before the enemy C-in-C takes their turn.

3.1. Reinforcements arrive

First one then the other C-in-C decides where to deploy their reinforcements to strengthen their strategic position. A C-in-C may move all bonus troops from their reinforcement pool to any reinforcement depot or reserve area that they control.

Some campaign settings have supplementary reinforcements. These are bonus troops that are not present at the start of the campaign but appear on a particular turn. On that turn just place the new bonus troops in the appropriate reinforcement pool to be deployed as normal.

3.2. Naval landings

This is an idea from the Struggle for Stalingrad. Naval landings are optional but are appropriate for situations like Stalingrad where the Soviets had to ferry reinforcements across the Volga.

3.2.1. Form convoy

One of the sides will have reinforcement depots are on one side of the river and supply depots on the other. Convoys are used to get bonus troops from one to the other. The C-in-C forming the convoy decides which bonus troops are convoying to which supply depot. All the bonus troops headed for a particular supply depot are considered part of the same convoy. Place the counters for the bonus troops near the destination supply depots.

3.2.2. Order air interdiction mission

The enemy C-in-C can order interdiction missions on the convoys. Aircraft that were not involved in the battle phase can be assigned to interdiction missions. The C-in-C decides which aircraft are interdicting which convoys. Place the aircraft markers near the supply depot they are interdicting. Only one interdiction attempt can be made on each convoy / supply depot in a turn.

3.2.3. Assign friendly air cover

If the player forming the convoy has aircraft that were not involved in the battle phase these can be assigned as air cover. Place the aircraft markers near the supply depot they are providing air cover for. An aircraft can only provide air cover for one convoy / supply depot per turn.

3.2.4. Resolve convoy success

Convoys which are not interdicted reach their destination.

Convoys without air cover that are interdicted are sunk.

Convoys with air cover that are interdicted must roll to reach their destination. Both sides roll 1d6 and add the number of aircraft they have involved. The higher score wins and a tie is in favour of the strategic aggressor. If the convoy wins it reaches its destination. If the interdicting aircraft win the convoy is sunk.

If a convoy reaches its destination the passenger bonus troops off load at the supply depot

If a convoy is sunk the passenger bonus troops are placed in the appropriate reinforcement pool.

All aircraft then return to the area they came from.

3.3. Strategic moves

First one then the other C-in-C moves any or all of their bonus troops from one area they control to another area they control. Once this move has been completed a unit cannot move any further during the strategic phase. Bonus troops cannot move into a reserve area as a strategic move

Any bonus troops may make a march move. This is between adjacent friendly-controlled areas.

Land troops use rail lines for long-distance movements. Bonus troops that start on a railway line can move anywhere on the railway network as long as every area they pass through is under friendly control.

Aircraft bonus troops have no movement restriction and can fly to any friendly controlled area on the map passing over friendly or unfriendly controlled areas as necessary.

Remember the supply rules as you move and try to avoid going out of supply. Most troops have to stick to the railway lines for supply but engineering bonus troops extend supply lines away from the railway lines.

3.4. Exploitation moves

Fast bonus troops (like medium tanks and mechanised infantry) may capture areas that are left empty of bonus troops by the opponent. The fast troops simply move into an adjacent empty but enemy-controlled area without it being contested.

Note: Both Firestorm Warsaw and Struggle for Stalingrad omit this rule as it is inappropriate for combat in built up areas.

3.5. Calculate victory points

Victory points in specific table-top battles are ignored for campaign purposes. Only the effect of the battle on the campaign map matters.

There are two ways to accumulate campaign victory points.

  • Capture and hold areas on the campaign map that are worth victory points
  • Surround and capture enemy bonus troops to remove them from the campaign

The C-in-C with the higher campaign victory point total subtracts the enemy campaign victory point total from their own to find out their victory point advantage. Move the victory point marker to show which side is winning and by how much.

At the end of the campaign the final campaign victory point totals determine the winning side. The extent of the victory depends on the difference between the two sides’ victory point totals.

Example Victory Points
Campaign Module Example Victory Points
Area Bonus Troops
FireStorm Bagration 0, 5, 10, 20, 30, or 50
540 total split between 11 city areas
within 56 areas
??
FireStorm Warsaw 5, 10, or 20
100 total over 10 areas
5 or 10
Struggle for Stalingrad 0, 5, 10, 20 or 30
235 total over 25 areas
??

3.6. Move turn marker

The last thing to do is to move the campaign turn marker on to the next campaign turn on the campaign map.

References

BattleFront: A day in the life of a Firestorm Bagration Commander

BattleFront: Staff Firestorm Bagration Campaign

BattleFront: Firestorm Market Garden Resources (PDF)

Haught, M. (n.d.). FireStorm Warsaw: The campaign for Warsaw 1944. Flames of War. [Available on-line at BattleFront: Firestorm Warsaw.

Vilalta, L. (Dec 2009). Struggle for Stalingrad: September 1942, Firestorm Rules. Wargames Soldiers & Strategy, 50, 39-49.

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