What Wargaming Rules to use for the Operational Level of War?

I’ve tried Megablitz a few times but I wondered what other wargaming rules there are to use for Operational Warfare in WW2. I quickly found there are a lot of game systems that claim to be large scale rules. But you have to careful in this space as many rules that claim to be Operational are actually Tactical. Others are Operational-Tactical and a fourth group are what I call Operational-Map-And-Tactical. These groupings are from my categorisation scheme using my criteria for what makes a set of wargaming rules operational level – both found later in this post.


List of Possible “Operational” Wargames

I did a google search for “Operational Wargames Rules” which brought up a number of discussions where somebody asks about operational wargames and other folk suggest game systems to consider. Then I added a few candidate games of my own. So here are the wargame rules that possibly cater for the operational level of war:

But, in truth, I’m not convinced all of these are actually operational in nature – they do not satisfy my criteria for what makes a set of wargaming rules operational level. However, it has to be said, that with minor tweaks most can be used for operational wargames.

What Wargaming Rules are really for the Operational Level of Warfare

What Wargaming Rules are really for the Operational Level of Warfare


High level comparison of “Operational” game systems

I have done a high level comparison of game systems above based on my criteria for what makes a set of wargaming rules operational level. There is a lot of variety and I characterise the games as: Operational, Operational-Tactical, Operational-Map-And-Tactical, and Tactical.

Wargaming Rules Command Stand Ground Scale Game Duration Logistics Level of Warfare
Bloody Big World War Two Battles Unclear Battalion or Regiment 1:6,667 or 1:13,333 Not clear Basic Logistics System Operational-Tactical
Division Commander Corps Battalion 1:21,160 Several days Full Logistical System Operational-Tactical
DivTac Division Company 1:50,000 Not clear but 1 move is approximately 1 hour of time Full Logistical Accounting Tactical
Engle Matrix Games Corp, army, or army group Regiment / Brigade or larger Whatever you want Days, weeks or months Supply is part of the matrix Operational-Map-And-Tactical
Field of Battle WW2 Division Company 1:3,600 Several days None Tactical
Hell’s Gate German Army Group, Soviet Front German Division, Soviet Corps 1:200,000 8 turns of 3 days Basic Operational
High Command Corps Battalion Too abstract to judge 1 day of 9-12 turns Nominal Operational-Map-And-Tactical
Hurrah Stalino German Corps, Soviet Infantry Corps, Soviet Tank Army Battalion 1:21,160 or 1:26,666 Variable turn length from 1 hour to 1 day. Basic Operational-Tactical
Kiss Rommel Corps Battalion Too abstract to judge 1 day of 9-12 turns Nominal Operational-Map-And-Tactical
Kriegsspiel Corps or Army Not specified 1:50,000 to 1:500,000 Days or weeks; by default 1 turn = 1 day None Operational
Lightning War Brigade or Division Company 1:10,000 Unclear None Tactical
Megablitz Division (or Soviet Corps) Battalion, although Soviet Rifle Regiments and Tiger Companies appear 1:25,000 to 1:50,000 2+ days based on turns of 2-3 hours Full logistical accounting Operational-Tactical
Not Quite Mechanised (NQM) Division Company 1:2,500 to 1:10,000 1+ days of 8 daylight bounds and 1 night bound Full logistical accounting Tactical
Panzer Korps Division Company 1:2,000 to 1:5,000 1+ days of two-hour “Day Segments” Nominal Tactical
PanzerGruppe Corps or equivalent (Soviet Army) Brigade / Regiment / Weak division 1:100,000 or 1:133,333 6-14 turns with 1 turn = 1+ days Full logistical system Operational
Pz8 Probably corps Battalion 1:40,000 1 day of 9-12 turns Basic Operational-Tactical
Rapier Offensive Corps for attacker. Division for defender Battalion 1:12,500 3 hours None Operational-Tactical
Rommel Division Company 1:6,667 1 day Nominal Tactical

Bloody Big World War Two Battles (BBWW2B)

(added in the 7 Oct 2017 update)

Source: Bob MacKenzie’s Rules and Scenarios

Bob MacKenzie’s Bloody Big World War Two Battles (BBWW2B) is a period specific version of Bloody Big Battles series. It is a stand a lone game and you don’t need Bloody Big Battles to play.

BBWW2B has two game scales: battalion and regimental.

In the regimental scale units are usually regiments with some battalions also being represented. A regiment is on a 3″ x 3″ base and a battalion on a 1 1/2″ x 1 1/2″ base. The ground scale is either 1:13,333 (3″ to the kilometre). Regimental time scale is nominally 1 turn = 2 hours

At battalion scale each unit base generally represents a battalion with smaller units being companies. A battalion is on a 3″ x 3″ base and a company on a 1 1/2″ x 1 1/2″ base. The ground scale is 1:6,667 (6″ to the kilometre). Battalion time is nominally 1 turn = 1 hour.

It isn’t clear to me how big a force the player commands. I’m guessing that it would be a corps or army for a regimental scale and at battalion scale either a division or corps. But I’m guessing.

There is a basic supply system. An intact logistics unit allow 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). 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. Logistics units have a combat strength due to representing “the cooks and bottle washers” in the second echelon.

BBWW2B is Operational-Tactical although the regimental scale is edging towards Operational.


Division Commander

Source: McFarlane, B. (2004). Division Commander: Miniatures Rules for Gaming Multi-day Battles of World War Two. Complete Wargame Packages. [Buy at Canuck Wargamer]

Bruce McFarlane’s Division Commander are “Miniatures Rules for Gaming Multi-day Battles of World War Two”. They are considerably more complicated than most of the other rules mentioned on this page.

Despite the fact it is called “Division Commander”, the commander-in-chief is actually a corps commander (Soviet Army) with 2-7 divisions (or heavy tank brigades or Soviet tank corps). The ground scale is 1:21,160 (3″ to 1 mile). The game lasts a number of days made up of variable length turns (90 minutes to 3 hours).

Division Commander has a full logistical system revolving around “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)

I classify Division Commander as Operational-Tactical because of the battalions and the low ground scale.


DivTac: World War II Divisional Level North West Europe 1944 to 1945

Source: DivTac: World War II Divisional Level North West Europe 1944 to 1945

Ian Shaw’s DivTac aims to be for “World War II Divisional Level North West Europe 1944 to 1945”. The commander-in-chief commands a division, each model (yes “model) is a company, and game time passes at 1 hour per move. Tiger tanks, and other big German armoured vehicles, have a different model scale: one model is one platoon. All of this makes DivTac a Tactical game.

In fact DivTac doesn’t claim to be Operational. Only the ground scale of 1:50,000 (1 cm = 500 m) and logistics rules hint at operational aspirations.

The high ground scale is only possible because each model is a company and has a frontage of 1 cm. I don’t have individual figures. In fact, I have a philosophical phobia about this. My 15mm WW2 troops are based three infantry figures to a stand. So I couldn’t play DivTac out of the box, even if I wanted to.

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.

Possible tweaks to DivTac

How about “CorpsOps” as variant on DivTac? Then it would be a proper Operational game. Basically scale up the game up without changing very much. I would use my three figure infantry stands (3x3cm) as a battalion of infantry. That would give a infantry battalion a game width of 1.5 km at 1:50,000 ground scale. Armoured models would also be battalions, except the big German tanks that would be companies. I would then leave the data sheets unchanged as all companies have magically turned into battalions.

I debated whether I would need to reduce ranged combat but as this is pretty constrained in the standard rules, it probably isn’t necessary.

The commander-in-chief would then get a corps rather than a division.

I think, to give the game a better feel, it would have to move to a multi-hour game turn, say 2-3 hours of daylight and 8 hours of night.


Engle Matrix Games

Source: Engle Matrix Games

I’ve got several map based campaigns using Engle Matrix Games, which are great. In these campaigns I use the Matrix to run the Operational level campaign and Tactical rules of choice to fight the battles. I have used Arthur Harman’s Simple Battle Resolution and DBA for the Tactical rules but anything will do. This combination makes Engle Matrix Games an Operational-Map-And-Tactical game system.

If you want to use Engle Matrix Games in WW2, you must already have or design the campaign. You’re looking for a campaign where the commander-in-chief commands a corps, army, or army group, the stands represent Regiment / Brigade or even larger, and campaign turns are days, weeks or months. Supply is automatically part of the matrix so players can exploit the poor supply of their opponents to gain advantage. The Tactical rules rules, and associated ground scale, can be anything you want.

For inspiration look at a couple of the big Engle Matrix Games I’ve played in the past:

Possible tweaks to Engle Matrix Games

Given I’m looking for a table top Operational game, I’d explore ways to get the campaign on table i.e. put the entire campaign map on table and resolve the battles in place on table like Kriegsspiel does. In fact this fits nicely with matrix game system where the umpire judges the likelihood of success of an argument and the player rolls for success.


Field of Battle WW2

(added in the 15 Oct 2017 update)

Source: Oman, B. (2008). Field of Battle WWII: 1939-1945. Piquet Inc. [Available from Piquet]

Brent Oman’s Field of Battle WW2 is pitched as a game of “engagements – concentrated assaults and desperate defensive actions of up to Division size or larger”. Games are assumed to be a division a side. Stands are companies; infantry companies have 100-200 men and armoured stands represent 60-80 men with about 15 vehicles. The ground scale is 1:3,600 (1 inch to 100 yards). There are only three game turns each day (morning, afternoon, night) so games probably extend more than one day. There are no logistics rules; Oman “didn’t want a game with support elements (no supply trucks, fuel trucks or bulldozers please!)”. I classify it as Tactical.


Hell’s Gate: The Korsun Pocket 1944

Source:

  • Sabin, P. (2012). Hell’s Gate: The Korsun Pocket 1944. Simulating War: Studying conflict through simulation games, p. 187-193. Bloomsbury Academic.
  • Hell’s Gate Download – get everything here

Philip Sabin’s Hell’s Gate is a board game simulating “the Korsun Pocket 1944”. Yes, a board game. I’ve included it here because it is the right scale to be a Operational wargame and, I believe, it is a simple matter to transfer to a table top.

The German commander-in-chief commands Army Group Centre. The Soviet commander-in-chief has both First and Second Ukrainian Front. A base (well, a counter) is usually a German Division or Soviet Corps. Some smaller units (Soviet divisions or German regiments, brigades or battle groups) are also included to hold thinly defended fronts. Each hex on the map is 20 km across. The game lasts eight turns, each representing 3 days. Logistics plays a key part of the game; units have to be supplied to remain effective.

Tweaks to Hell’s Gate

Well, I’d put it on a table to start with – see Tabletop Operational Wargame Inspired by Hell’s Gate. Assuming the same 10 cm hexes as PanzerGruppe, this gives a ground scale of 1:200,000 ground. Or assuming 20 cm hexes it is 1:100,000; this would give more space for colocated units.

The original board game is also tightly bound to the Korsun Pocket. It would need a new scenario to use in other contexts.


High Command: Grand Tactical Rules for the Second World War

Source: High Command: Grand Tactical Rules for the Second World War

Richard Affinati’s High Command is an evolution of Kiss Rommel, and is pitched as “Grand Tactical Rules for the Second World War”. The original rules are for the Eastern Front, but there are variations for the Desert (1940-43), Italian Front (1943-45), Western Front (1944-45), and Pacific (1941-45).

Just like Kiss Rommel, the initial focus of High Command are the Tactical rules used to fight a battle. In a particular battle the commander-in-chief commands a corps (Soviet Army) of four divisions (Soviet Corps). Each stand is a battalion. Battles are fought on a 5′ x 4′ table comprising a grid of 20 zones each 12″ x 12″ (Kiss Rommel has a 4’x4′ grid). Battles last 1 day of 9-12 turns. Supply is only used in the victory conditions; if you capture all three enemy supply bases you can declare an immediate victory.

High Command includes seven campaign scenarios:

  • 1. Eastern Front, 1941-45
  • 2. Stalingrad, Winter of 1942-43
  • 3. Operation Titan, 3 days in late 1942 / early 1943
  • 4. Battle of Prokorovka, Kursk, 5-13 July 1943
  • 5. Jsbushenski, 24th August 1942
  • 6. North Flank, Kursk, 5-13 July 1943
  • 7. Ukraine, 5-13 July 1943

Scenario 1 and 2 are the same map based campaigns as Kiss Rommel – they form a Linked Scenario Campaign. The big campaigns last as long as they last as the aim is to drive the enemy off the campaign map – perhaps weeks in Stalingrad or months in the Eastern Front campaign. In the campaign each commander-in-chief nominally has 14-16 divisions (Soviet corps) although only 3-4 are used in each battle. The Eastern Front Campaign Map (Scenario 1) stretches from Berlin to the Urals; this is 2877 km, divided into 10 areas, so each area is nominally 288 km. The Stalingrad Campaign Map (Scenario 2) from Morozvsk to the Volga; this is 225km, divided into 4 areas, so each area is nominally 56km. The more areas on the map the longer the campaign will last. Note: these campaigns are map based so on-table ground scale is not relevant.

The other scenarios (3-7) in High Command blend the campaign and battles into one table top game. Given my interest in Ponyri, I’ll use scenario 6 to illustrate the approach. Germans get four divisions (two infantry; two panzer) and Soviets get three rifle divisions, probably representing a corps in each case. The battle is fought on a 5’x3’ table using the Tactical rules; there is no campaign map. The game lasts 15 turns; from context each turn is probably 1/2 a day. A side gains victory points for destroying enemy units and supply bases. The supply bases are in the built-up-areas; there are seven in the soviet deployment area and two in the German zone, and one (Arkangeliskoe) which is disputed at the game start. There are no other logistical rules.

Note: there are many typographic errors in High Command, particularly the scenarios. For example, in Scenario 6 the Soviet and German deployment zones are swapped around on the map.

I categorise High Command as Operational-Map-And-Tactical because of the split between map based campaigns and tactical rules. There are hints of Operational-Tactical: battalions and day long table top games, and the nominal logistical system. However, the multi-day, on table, campaign scenarios nudge High Command towards Operational, but it would need a better logistical system to truly classify.

Possible tweaks to High Command

The on-table campaign option looks interesting to me. But to make High Command a truly operation it needs a more sophisticated logistical system. Perhaps borrow something from PanzerGruppe.


Hurrah Stalino: Corps to Army Level Rules for Conflict on the Russian Front 1942 to 1945

Source: Hurrah Stalino: Corps to Army Level Rules for Conflict on the Russian Front 1942 to 1945

Hurrah Stalino is by the Neo Stalinist Reality Wargames Collective and/or Kremlin Miniatures. Just the sub-title of Hurrah Stalino shows that the aspirations are at the right level: “Corps to Army Level Rules for Conflict on the Russian Front 1942 to 1945”. The commander-in-chief commands a German Corps, Soviet Infantry Corps, or Soviet Tank Army. However, each stand is a battalion, which is a stretch for a truly Operational game. And the ground scale is hovering at the low end of the operational scale at 1:21,160 (3″ to 1 mile) or 1:26,666 (3″ to 2 km). Turns are variable length from 1 hour to 1 day so multi-day games are very possible. There is a simple logistics system: Each Corps or Army has a supply dump in a rear area sector and you subtract a die when an assaulting units supply sector has been captured/destroyed.

Possible tweaks to Hurrah Stalino

I think I’ll experiment with Hurrah Stalino. I’m conscious that Hurrah Stalino assume bases are 1″ wide and up to 1 1⁄2″ depth and that six of these can fit within a 3″ x 3″ sector. My infantry bases are 3cm x 3cm, so wider, and only four will fit in a 3″ x 3″ sector. and of course 15mm vehicles would make this even worse. I’m toying with the idea of 4″ x 4″ sectors to accommodate my bigger bases.

Unfortunately increasing the size of the sectors from 3″ to 4″ would decrease the ground scale to 1:15,870 (4″ to 1 mile) or 1:20,000 (4″ to 2 km), which is too low count as Operational. I would have to take it up a level from Corps to Army, Battalion to Regiment/Brigade, and increase the ground scale so a 4″ wide sector was 10km (1:100,000) – this is the approach used in PanzerGruppe.

Another option is to stick with 3″ sectors and consequently that less of my stands will fit in a sector. This would decrease the attackers ability to mass an attack and the defender’s ability to spread out to cover a larger frontage. But I would still take it up a level and increase the ground scale so a 3″ wide sector was 7.5 km (1:100,000)


KISS Rommel

Source: Kiss Rommel

Norman Mackenzie’s KISS Rommel inspired two other rules on this list: High Command and Pz8. KISS Rommel is a strictly Operational-Map-And-Tactical game system, as it has a map based campaign system and on-table tactical rules to fight battles.

In a particular battle the commander-in-chief commands a corps of 4-5 divisions. Each stand is a battalion. Battles are fought on a 4′ x 4′ table comprising a grid of 16 zones each 12″ x 12″. Battles last 1 day of 9-12 turns. Supply is only used in the victory conditions; if you capture all three enemy supply bases you can declare an immediate victory.

The North African Campaign built into KISS Rommel is a Linked Scenario Campaign, with multiple battles being fought in the course of the campaign, each, potentially, in a different location. The campaign lasts as long as it lasts as the aim is to drive the enemy off the campaign map – perhaps months. In the campaign each commander-in-chief nominally has nine divisions though only 4-5 are used in each battle. The Campaign Map stretches from Tunis to Cairo; this is 2805 km, divided into 9 areas, so each area is nominally 311 km. Note: the campaign is map based an on-table ground scale is not relevant.

Norman Mackenzie built the Desert War into his game system, so there is only one “scenario”. However, others have made alternatives. For example, Martin Rapier did a Bagration version (Eastern Front, 2 Jun 1944 – 19 Aug 1944).

I classify KISS Rommel as Operational-Map-And-Tactical because of the split between map based campaigns and tactical rules. There are hints of Operational-Tactical: battalions and day long table top games, and the nominal logistical system.

To be truly Operational, in my classification, KISS Rommel would need a better logistical system. And to suit my purposes it would also have to be entirely on-table, without the map based campaign.

Possible Tweaks to KISS Rommel

Drop the map based campaign system and fight bigger, multi-day, on-table battles like High Command and Pz8 offer. KISS Rommel also needs a more sophisticated logistical system. Perhaps borrow something from PanzerGruppe or at least adopting the morale effect from Pz8.


Kriegsspiel

Source: Griffiths, P. (2009). “Paddy Griffith’s Napoleonic Wargaming for Fun”. lulu.com.

Kriegsspiel is explicitly designed as an Operational game. It has a long history but I looked at a relatively recent incarnation: the version by Paddy Griffiths published in “Paddy Griffith’s Napoleonic Wargaming for Fun” (2009). don’t be put off by “Napoleonic” in the title as the rules apply equally as well to World War II.

Kriegsspiel has the commander-in-chief commanding a corps or army. There are no rules about how the order of battle is formed, so the equivalent of a stand is not mentioned; there is nothing stopping you selecting a regiment / brigade as the lowest level of unit in the orbat. A couple of map scales are mentioned: 1:50,000 and 1:500,000. Games last days or weeks depending on the context; by default 1 turn = 1 day.

The entire system demands an umpire. For example, for combat, the umpire considers the situation and sets the odds for success. The attacker then rolls to see if they succeeded.

There is one glaring gap … there is no logistical system. None-the-less I have classified it as an Operational game system as all of the other desirable characteristics are fully present.

Possible Tweaks to Kriegsspiel

I’m looking for a table top game and Kriegsspiel is a map based game. But there is nothing stopping you putting a big map on a wargaming table and playing there. It is a bit trickier than that because, to allow hidden movement, each player has their own map. That is ideal from a simulation perspective but less aesthetic than having everything on table. I would consider other options for hidden movement e.g. blinds or cards.

I’d also add in a logistical system. Perhaps borrow something from Hurrah Stalino, PanzerGruppe, or Pz8


Lightning War (Andrew Stevenson)

(added in the 7 Oct 2017 update)

Source: LWRS Yahoo Group: Lightning War and Red Storm Files.

Andrew Stevenson’s Lightning War “is a game of warfare during the age of machinery.” Last time I looked it was at version 3.1. The game is described as “company based rules for miniature warfare”; what that means is each base is a company (about 150 men, 15 vehicles or guns). The ground scale is 1:10,000 (1cm is 100m). A turn is two hours although it isn’t clear how long a game is meant to last. There are no supply rules as “Foot infantry do not usually need supplying in these rules”. I’m guessing a player commands a brigade, perhaps a division. Tactical – say no more.


Megablitz: Rules for large actions of the Second World War

Source: Gow, T. (n.d.). Megablitz: Rules for fighting large actions of the Second World War. Strategem.

I have played Tim Gow’s Megablitz a few times and have some stuff on Megablitz on my site. The commander-in-chief commands a division (or Soviet Corps), but bigger games are possible. A stand is usually a battalion, although Soviet Rifle Regiments and Tiger Companies also appear. The ground scale is 1:25,000 to 1:50,000 (personally I play 1:33,000 so I can use Crossfire armies for Megablitz). Games last 2+ days based on turns of 2-3 hours. Megablitz has a full scale logistical accounting mechanism involving a lot of trucks.

I categorise Megablitz as Operational-Tactical because of the battalions.

Possible tweaks to Megablitz

I could upscale so a stand is a regiment / brigade and the commander-in-chief commands a corps (Soviet Army). I’d have to change the ground scale as well (1:100,000).


Not Quite Mechanised (NQM)

Source: Not Quite Mechanised (NQM): Fast play umpire guidelines for operational battles in the early 20th Century

Chris Kemp pitches his Not Quite Mechanised (NQM) as “Fast play umpire guidelines for operational battles in the early 20th Century.” Although there are suggestions for bigger games the assumption is the commander-in-chief has a division. The ground scale is 1:2,500 for 20mm figures (1:76 scale), 1:5,000 for 10/12mm figures (1:200/1:144), and 1:10,000 for 5mm figures (1:300). An stand (called a “BASE”) nominally represents a company, although the rules allow for three such infantry stands in a half battalion, so I’m not sure “company” is the correct designation. A half battalion (called a “STAND” for some reason) is the manoeuvre unit and contains one vehicle model or 2-3 infantry stands/bases. Days are made up of eight daylight bounds and one night bound. Games are expected to last one day for a divisional game, and longer for bigger games. Despite the claim to Operational in the subtitle, all of the above makes it a Tactical game to me.

For me the one Operational element of Not Quite Mechanised is the logistics system. Divisional A 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 1 Day. The rules cover moving supply forward from Corps level supply dumps to division and then to the front line units.


Panzer Korps: Divisional Warfare Miniatures System

Source: Granillo II, M. (2008). Panzer Korps: Divisional Warfare Miniatures System. Hoplite Research, LLC.

Manny Granillo II’s Panzer Korps is a “Divisional Warfare Miniatures System”. Although German corps and Soviet armies are theoretically possible with this game system, it is designed with divisions in mind. A stand is a company although the manoeuvre unit is the battalion (a group of companies). The ground scale very small. The ground scale is 1:2,000 (1″ = 50m) for 15mm/20mm figures and 1:5,000 (1cm = 50m) for 6mm/10mm figures. The day is divided into two-hour “Day Segments” and a game might go beyond one day. Logistics only appears to be covered in a nominal fashion; panicked units may recover and Unit integrity is checked in the “Logistics Phase”.

All of that suggests Tactical. I’m not even convinced it is division level given the quick reference charts includes ranges for individual infantry anti-tank weapons.


PanzerGruppe: Large Scale Armoured Warfare

Source: PanzerGruppe: Large Scale Armoured Warfare

Martin Rapier is a huge proponent of Operational level games. His PanzerGruppe is a very good example of this focus and is for “Large Scale Armoured Warfare”. The commander-in-chief commands a corps (or Soviet Army). Each base is a brigade, regiment, or Weak division. The ground scale is normally 1:100,000 given one 10cm Hexon hex is 10km, however Martin also uses 7.5cm offset squares which is a ground scale of 1:133,333. It is important for Martin that a division can fit into a hex/square with room to spare. Games last 6-14 turns with 1 turn = 1 or more days. The rules include a full logistics system which, luckily, do not involve accounting.

Martin has played a number of major battles using PanzerGruppe: Arnhem (10 days), Operation Crusader (two weeks), Operation Venezia (about a week), the Six Day War (six days), Manstein’s drive to Dvina (around 10 days), and the battle of Zoltsy (around a week).

Possible Tweaks to PanzerGruppe

I’m not sure any tweaks are necessary. I’d have to see by applying the rules to a particular scenario.


Pz8 – WW2 Divisional Wargame Rules

Source: Pz8 Rules Collection v3

Panzer Eight’s Pz8 rules collection includes lots of period specific rules:

  • Pz8 – WW2 Wargame Rules
  • Pz8 – 1950/1975 Wargame Rules
  • Pz8 – 1975/2010 Wargame Rules
  • Pz8 – Sci-Fi Wargame Rules
  • Pz8 – WW2 Divisional Wargame Rules
  • Pz8 – 1939/41 Naval Wargame Rules
  • Pz8 – WW2 Coastal Wargame Rules
  • Pz8 – Space Wargame Rules
  • Pz8 – WW1 Divisional Wargame Rules
  • Pz8 – 1935/65 Aerial Wargame Rules
  • Pz8 – 1965-75 Aerial Wargame Rules
  • Pz8 – Colonial Wargame Rules

The game system I focus on here is the “Pz8 – WW2 Divisional Wargame Rules”. According to Martin Rapier “The Pz8 Divisional rules are a tidied up version of Kiss Rommel (and only have ranges for artillery fire).” The relationship with Kiss Rommel means each stand is a battalion, there are divisions, games are 1 day of 9-12 turns, and supply is abstracted into objectives.

Pz8 Divisional, however, has some key differences from Kiss Rommel:

Difference Pz8 Kiss Rommel
Campaign System None Map based
Order of Battle 1-3 divisions 4-5 divisions
Table 4′ x 3′ table 4′ x 4′ table
Ground Scale 1:40,000 (1″ = 1 km) None
Objectives Logistical or Tactical objectives (Deposits, Towns, Bridges, Crossroads etc.) Supply Bases
Loss of objective –1 modifier to Rally die rolls of all its friendly units losing three supply bases gives opponent a major victory
Ranged fire Only Artillery All troops

Ironically, lacking the map based campaign of Kiss Rommel and High Command, does not make Pz8 particularly less Operational in nature. I’ve categorised Pz8 Divisional as Operational-Tactical because of battalions, day long games, and the basic supply system – which all these game systems share (more or less). Similarly, although not stated, I have assumed each commander-in-chief commands a corps of 3-5 divisions. But, like the on-table scenarios of High Command, Pz8 has the option for big operations on-table, with the benefit of a (marginally) better logistics system.

Possible tweaks to Pz8

To make Pz8 more Operational, I could substitute regiments/brigades for battalions and change the ground scale to match (1:100,000). I’m not sure I’d bother.

I am more likely to tweak the logistics system. I like the elegance of the -1 rally modifier when losing a Logistical or Tactical objectives, but I think the rule could be more subtle than affecting “all its friendly units”. Perhaps have divisional supply bases and lose of the supply base affects that division but not others.


Rapier Offensive: A multiplayer Operational Game

Source: Rapier Offensive: A multiplayer operational game.

Rapier Offensive is my condensation of several rules/scenarios by Martin Rapier. These include:

Also have a look at my material on Rapier Offensive.

The standard rules are Operational-Tactical. The attacking commander-in-chief commands an corps and the defender a division. Each stand is a battalion. The ground scale is 1:12,500 because each 6″x6″ sector is 2 km across so the table is 8 x 12 km. The game is a day made up of six turns of three hours.

Unfortunately, Rapier Offensive lacks a logistical system.

Possible tweaks to Rapier Offensive

I’d do two things to make Rapier Offensive an Operational game. I use the “Army” scale. Suddenly it would be an army attacking a corps with regiments/brigades as the units. The ground scale jumps to 1:50,000 because a 6″x6″ sector is 8 km and the table is 30 x 50 km. Game duration is 2+ days made up of six turns of eight hours.

And I’d add in a logistical system. Perhaps borrow something from Hurrah Stalino, PanzerGruppe, or Pz8


Rommel: A Tabletop Game of Great Battles in the Second World War

(added in the 7 Oct 2017 update)

Source: Mustafa, S.A. (2017). “Rommel: A Tabletop Game of Great Battles in the Second World War”. Author. [Available from Sam Mustafa: Rommel]

Sam Mustafa’s Rommel claims to be “A Tabletop Game of Great Battles in the Second World War”, however, in my terms it is quite Tactical. Each stand is only a company (about 200 men) and in a typical game a player commands a division. The ground scale is tiny at 1:6,667 (6″ to 1km). In the standard rules games last a single day of 16-30 turns. Sam Mustafa makes it clear that Rommel “is about combat, not logistics”, so being in supply is only important for certain scenarios where one side has to rescue an isolated unit. Note: Rommel distinguishes between being low in supply and being “isolated”; they are related but different. Both involve tracing a supply line. Supply status is checked at the beginning of the day i.e. at the start of the game in most cases. In contrast, isolation status is checked during game play, and reflects being out of communications. Being isolated makes actions more difficult or impossible.

Rommel’s advanced rules provide the option for a smaller grid (4″ to 1km) which gives a ground scale of 1:10,000. There is also the option for multi-day games with associated extensions to the logistics system. Despite these options Rommel is still pretty Tactical.


Criteria for what makes a set of wargaming rules operational level

My definition of Operational Level of War is:

the planning and conduct of campaigns, involving large numbers of men (entire corps, armies, or army groups, or whole fleets at sea), covering thousands of square kilometres, and taking a long time (days, weeks or months).

So a set of wargaming rules, to be considered truly operational level, must:

  1. Command: Allow the player to command, on table, an entire corp, army, or army group
  2. Stand: A stand represents a Regiment / Brigade (two levels of command lower), or, at the absolute outside, a battalion (three levels of command lower)
  3. Ground Scale: Have a ground scale of 1:25,000 (or more)
  4. Game Duration: The time scale of the game must span multiple days and perhaps weeks or months
  5. Logistics: The game includes rules to penalise troops that are out of supply

The first two criteria are related. Commanders directly control the formations one level of the command hierarchy lower, and are typically interested in the activity of the formations two levels lower. A well designed wargame should simulate this command hierarchy. So when a player is is corps commander they should directly control the divisions within the corps and be interested in the activity of the regiments / brigades within the subordinate divisions. If a game system were pushing the limits of playability the stands might be battalions, which are three levels below the corps commander. Game systems that feature companies, platoons, sections or fire teams are out.

Command Hierarchy
Level of command Typical numbers
Army Group 160,000
Army 80,000
Corps 20-40,000
Division / Legion 10-15,000
Regiment / Brigade 2-4,000
Battalion 3-800
Company 80-150
Platoon 15-30
Section / Squad 8-12
Fire team 3-4

(Adapted from Wikipedia: Command Hierarchy)

Note: Soviet divisions, corps and armies of World War II were smaller than those of other nations. So a Soviet army was comparable to a German corps.

The area of operations has to be “thousands of square kilometres”. On a typical 6’x4′ wargames table that means the ground scale has to be, at bare minimum, 1:25,000. For example, at a ground scale of 1:25,000 the 6’x4′ table would be 45×30 km and have an area of 1350 square km. A ground scale smaller than this would be too tactical to count as an operational level game. 1:33,000 is better as an operational ground scale, giving a 6’x4′ table an area of about 2,400 square km. But, of course, bigger is even better so 1:100,000 would translate to a table of 21,600 square km.

Ground Scale 6′ Table Edge 4′ Table Edge Table Area
1:25,000 45 km 30 km 1,350 square km
1:33,000 ~60 km ~40 km ~2,400 square km
1:50,000 90 km 60 km 5,400 square km
1:100,000 180 km 120 km 21,600 square km

An operational game system has to span multiple days. So, at absolute minimum, turns (if there are turns) have to be several hours long, with the expectation that games last past the first day. Of course turns could be whole days or weeks.

A key element of campaigns is the ability to keep the troops moving, that requires supplies and hence logistics.


Categorises of Operational rules

I categorise the games as: Operational, CategoryOperational-Tactical, Operational-Map-And-Tactical, and Tactical.

Operational Rules

Operational rules meet all the criteria for what makes a set of wargaming rules operational level.

Only two of the game systems are purely operational out of the box: Kriegsspiel and PanzerGruppe.

Operational-Map-And-Tactical Rules

Several game systems had one set of rules for the campaign and another for the battles. Only the battles were on table and the campaign is played on a map. By my definitions the campaign is operational and the battles are tactical. Hence my term Operational-Map-And-Tactical – pretty obvious really.

This category includes Engle Matrix Games, High Command, and Kiss Rommel.

Operational-Tactical Rules

Operational-Tactical game systems are a kind of a blend of the two levels. The game is really too small scale to be truly Operational. Things like having stands representing battalions and/or games that last only a day in combination with other attributes that are Operational.

This category includes Bloody Big World War Two Battles, Hurrah Stalino, Pz8, Megablitz, and Rapier Offensive.

Tactical Rules

Following my analysis some of the game systems are definitely tactical and not operational. The main reason for this is having stands representing companies.

Because of this I have struck DivTac, Lightning War, Not Quite Mechanised (NQM), Panzer Korps, and Rommel off the Operational list of wargames.


References

Griffiths, P. (2009). “Paddy Griffith’s Napoleonic Wargaming for Fun”. lulu.com.

Engle Matrix Games

My stuff on Chris Engle’s Matrix games.

Gow, T. (n.d.). Megablitz: Rules for fighting large actions of the Second World War. Strategem.

Granillo II, M. (2008). Panzer Korps: Divisional Warfare Miniatures System. Hoplite Research, LLC.

Check out the Panzer Korps Yahoo Group

Kemp, C. (2015). Chris Kemp’s Not Quite Mechanised: Fast play umpire guidelines for operational battles in the early 20th Century. Not Quite Mechanised (NQM).

Mackenzie, N. (n.d.). Kiss Rommel.

McFarlane, B. (2004). Division Commander: Miniatures Rules for Gaming Multi-day Battles of World War Two. Complete Wargame Packages. [Buy at Canuck Wargamer]

Mustafa, S.A. (2017). “Rommel: A Tabletop Game of Great Battles in the Second World War”. Author. [Available from Sam Mustafa: Rommel]

Neo Stalinist Reality Wargames Collective. (n.d.). Hurrah Stalino: Corps to Army Level Rules for Conflict on the Russian Front 1942 to 1945. Version 1.. Kremlin Miniatures.

Oman, B. (2008). Field of Battle WWII: 1939-1945. Piquet Inc. [Available from Piquet]

Panzer Eight. (2012). Pz8 Rules Collection v3 (via Web Archive). http://panzer8.weebly.com.

Rapier, M. (2008). PanzerGruppe: Large Scale Armoured Warfare. Author.

Martin kindly provided some additional information privately.

Rapier, M. (n.d.). Operation Uranus – an Army Level Game for one (or more) players. Author.

Rapier, M. (n.d.). The Battle of Cambrai. Author.

Rapier, M. (Autumn, 2006). Operation Uranus: An operational WW2 game. The Journal: The Society of Twentieth Century Wargamers, 55, 16-18.

Rapier, M. (Winter, 2007). The Battle of the Ebro, July 1938: A Spanish Civil War Megablitz Scenario. The Journal: The Society of Twentieth Century Wargamers, 60, 4-9.

Rapier, M., and Thomas, S. (2006). Rapier Offensive

Sabin, P. (2012). Hell’s Gate: The Korsun Pocket 1944. Simulating War: Studying conflict through simulation games, p. 187-193. Bloomsbury Academic.

You can download Hell’s Gate – you can get everything here

Shaw, I. (n.d.). DivTac: World War II Divisional Level North West Europe 1944 to 1945. Wrexham & District Wargamers.

Wikipedia: Command Hierarchy

12 comments to What Wargaming Rules to use for the Operational Level of War?

  • ‘Field of Battle: WWII’ uses companies as the base unit with Battalions as the maneuver element. Quite a unique card driven turn sequence too. I’ve often wondered if making a few adaptations such that the base unit becomes a battalion, and changing ranges and/or using hexes (so that I could do Market Garden) would make an overt and grinding change, or not.

    (the FoB series is roughly based on Piquet, but much smoother)

    • Steven Thomas

      Oops. I should have included FoBWW2. Thanks for reminding me. In a discussion on operational level wargames, a mate of mine recommended FoBWW2 but only for games with a division a side fighting through a game day. He advised against using them for bigger/longer battles.

  • I’m also considering using Bob Cordery’s ‘Portable Wargaming’ books to create units/system that would allow me to fight the entire market garden campaign on a 8’x5′ table, though it might require some further work in terms of day turns and supply rules. Bob has a set called ‘Hexblitz’ on his site which seem to work well (though I would change facing and combat).
    There are also quite a few rulesets that I didn’t know about on your post, so more food for thought I think.

  • Nice review. I appreciate the comparisons. I’m sure you are aware of Sam Mustafa’s new game Rommel? I’m just starting it, but it seems to fit the bill too.

  • Aghast – you forgot to mention Andrew Stevenson’s Lightning War.

    The key mechanic in lighting war can be summarised as “military units are made of bits, (which might be made of other smaller bits)” and “in any battle / campaign some bits will be normal, some bits will be better, and some will be worse”.

    What this means is a stand might be a company, or a battalion, or a regiment. Which means the parent unit is a battalion, regiment or division. And the parent unit of that will be a regiment, division or a corps.

    Similarly, if the battle is Tunisia 1942, any Italian tank is poor, some British tanks are poor, Shermans and Lees and Grants are normal, and Tigers are superior. Whereas by Normandy 1944, Shermans, PzIVs and Cromwells are poor, Panthers, Hetzers and Tiger Is are normal and Tiger IIs are superior.

    Using this sliding scale system we fought the Afrika Corps vs 8th Army at El Alamein, and then we fought the entire Normandy Campaign, no problems.

    • Steven Thomas

      Chris, the version of Lightning War you played might differ to that which I have (version 3.1). Version 3.1 is very tactical (by my definition). To quote Lightning War 3.1 rule book …

      The basic unit of control is the battalion (or national equivalent). This is a unit of individual bases (usually around four), where each base represents a company (or squadron of tanks). This battalion-sized unit is called a combat unit. A group of these combat units, usually two to four, is called a battle group.

      An example of a battle group is a British armoured brigade, where the individual armoured regiments are the combat units. The four bases within each represent the squadrons within the regiments.

      Each base is a company (or equivalent) and represents around 150 men, 15 vehicles or 15 guns.

      A turn is two hours, and each centimetre is 100 metres

      Foot infantry do not usually need supplying in these rules.

  • Steven Thomas

    I was reading the Doctor Phalanx blog and found mention of Bob MacKenzie’s Bloody Big World War Two Battles (BBWW2B). Worth a look.

  • Steven Thomas

    I have added three game systems to the list: Bob MacKenzie’s Bloody Big World War Two Battles (BBWW2B), Sam Mustafa’s Rommel and Andrew Stevenson’s Lightning War. Portable Wargaming and Field of Battle: WWII is in the post.

  • Steven Thomas

    I’ve added the Field of Battle WW2 game system to the post.

Leave a Reply