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:
- Assault Gun
- Bloody Big World War Two Battles
- Division Commander
- Drive on Moscow
- Engle Matrix Games
- Field of Battle WW2
- Hell’s Gate
- High Command
- Hurrah Stalino
- KISS Rommel
- Lightning War
- Not Quite Mechanised (NQM)
- Operational Art
- Panzer Korps
- Rapier Offensive
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.
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|
|Assault Gun||One or more divisions||Battalion or Regiment||1:10,000 or 1:50,000||A number of days, each of 2-4 turns||Full logistical accounting||Operational-Tactical|
|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|
|Drive on Moscow||Multiple German Army Groups, Soviet Fronts||German Corps, Soviet Army||1:400,000||22 turns of 3-5 days||Basic||Operational|
|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|
|Hexblitz||Division to Corps||Battalion or Regiment, although HQ Companies and Recon companies appear||1:25,000||Turns of 2 day light hours and 4 night time hours||Full logistical accounting||Operational-Tactical|
|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|
|Operational Art||One or more divisions||Regiment or HQ||About 1:20,000||Days of 12 turns||None||Operational-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|
(added in 8 Dec 2017 update)
Source: Kershaw, D., (2006). Assault Gun: Operational Miniature Combat Rules 1939-45. [Available on-line at Board Game Geek: Assault Gun]
David Kershaw’s Assault Gun are “Operational Miniature Combat Rules 1939-45”. Players command one or more divisions; the example scenario is set in 1945 and has two Soviet Corps (Tank; Cavalry) attacking a German Volksgrenadier Division reinforced by a brigade. One base represents a regiment of infantry/artillery or a battalion of tanks/support weapons. Like several of the rules listed here, there are two ground scales: for 5-6mm figures the ground scale is 1:50,000 (2cm = 1km); for 15-25mm figures the ground scale is 1:10,000 (10cm = 1km). I find the second scale very strange. The rules say a “regiment sized units should be based on 1.5km by 1.5km bases. Battalion sized units should have smaller bases – 1km by 1km”. Given the ground scale, a 15mm rifle unit on a 15cm x 15cm base! That is rather large, and makes me wonder if the larger figure scales were ever play tested. Games are a number of days, each comprising of 2-4 turn; the example scenario has three turns per day for four days.
Assault Gun is based on Megablitz. However, according to Kershaw, it was “eventually re-written so much that the only similarity left is rolling dice in combat per strength point, and the scale.” To that I’d add the logistics system. Key differences from Megablitz are:
- Hexes (Megablitz has no grid)
- Armoured units are battalions and others are regiments (Megablitz uses battalions except for Soviet Rifle Regiments and Tiger companies)
- All units have reconnaissance capability (Megablitz has separate recon units)
Assault Gun has as similar Logistics units (LOG) as Megablitz. LOG are consumed for fighting and are transported by truck. 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.
Chris Helm brought Assault Gun to my attention and I agree with his assessment that “it has some nice looking mechanisms, there’s a definite tendency towards too much detail about the exact types of troops and equipment.”
Possible tweaks to Assault Gun
There is definitely something funny about the ground scale for 15mm troops i.e. a regiment goes on a stand 15cm x 15cm. I’d put the same unit on a stand 3cm x 3cm which is, effectively, the ground scale for 5-6mm troops i.e. 1:50,000.
I’d also consider rationalising on regiments. So I’d turn all Tank/Support battalions into regiments to get organisational consistency.
(added in the 7 Oct 2017 update)
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.
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.
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.
(added in 9 Dec 2017 update)
Source: Shenandoah Studio. (2013, 21 November). Drive on Moscow. Author.
“Drive on Moscow” is an iPad wargame by Shenandoah Studio. This game is very Operational in nature which is why I’ve included it in my list. Given the gigantic scale of the game it is probably even Strategic-Operational (although that isn’t part of my categorisation scheme).
The German player commands two or three army groups. The Soviets two or three Fronts. Most units represent entire German corps or Soviet armies, although the occasional specialist Soviet corps appears (e.g. Airborne). The ground scale is huge. The map covers a big chunk of the USSR – everything covered by Operation Typhoon and the Soviet counter offensive. Moscow, Tula, Voronezh, Kalinin, Kaulga, Orel, Kursk, Rzhev, and Bryansk all feature on the map. The map is divided into regions (not hexes or squares), each of which is roughly 30 to 40km across. The full campaign runs for 22 turns, each representing between three and five days of activity depending on the weather. 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. If the supply situation worsens, and a unit becomes isolated, then it cannot fight. If supply deteriorates further then then isolated units starts to suffer losses.
Possible tweaks to Drive on Moscow
Well, for a start, I have to make it a table top game. As it happens I’ve done this … see Tabletop Operational Wargame Inspired by Drive on Moscow. My rules aren’t an exact mapping to the original iPad game but close enough to give you a sense of how it plays. The major difference is that I’ve replaced the regions with a regular grid of hex/squares. Each hex/square is 40km across from flat side to flat side. Assuming 10cm hex/squares that is a ground scale of 1:400,000.
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:
- Austerlitz – An Engle Matrix Game: The campaign map covers an area from Italy to Prussia, and from France to the Ukraine. The six players each command an army. Okay, it is Napoleonic.
- A Load of Gauls – A DBA Campaign Matrix Game: The campaign map covers north and central Italy. The six players each command an army.
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.
(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.
- 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.
(added in 9 Dec 2017 update)
Hexblitz is, apparently, Bob Cordery’s attempt to combine some of the mechanisms used in Megablitz with ideas gleaned from the British Army’s 1956 Tactical War Game Rules so that they could be used on a hexagonally gridded tabletop. From my perspective it is a combination of Bob’s own Operational Art with Megablitz.
I’m guessing, because Hexblitz is based on Megablitz, the players command somewhere between a division and a corps. Most stands appear to be battalion sized units; the exceptions are HQ companies, reconnaissance companies, and Soviet Rifle Regiments. Ground scale is 1:25,000 (4cm = 1km; 10cm hex = 2.5km). Each turn is about 2 hours of daylight and 4 hours of night time. Hexblitz borrows many logistical elements from Megablitz and then tweaks/simplifies them. An infantry division consumes 1 logistical supply (LOG) every 24 hours (Soviet Infantry Divisions consume 1/2 LOG), a Motorised Division consumes 2 LOG, and an Armoured Division consumes 3 LOG. I’d say Operational-Tactical like Megablitz and Operational Art.
If you want to see how Hexblitz plays then check out Bob Cordery’s play test: The Battle of Alderstadt.
Archduke Piccolo plays a hybrid Not Quite Mechanised / Hexblitz / Megablitz game system. Have a look at his battle reports: The Assault against Apresski; A second attempt; Disaster at Apresski; Operation Uranus: The Assault against Third Romanian Army. Archduke Piccolo seems to push Hexblitz to the limit. In his Operation Uranus game he has the Axis with the 3rd Romanian Army and German XLVIII Panzer Corps facing off against Soviets with 5th Tank Army, 21st Army, part of the 1st Guards Army, and part of 65th Army. All on a table that has 15 hexes by 12 hexes (a 120cm x 134cm game board). That is my kind of game although he admits it was crowded.
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 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)
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.
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.
(added in the 7 Oct 2017 update)
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.
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).
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.
(added in the 9 Dec 2017 update)
Source: Operational Art: Wargames rules for re-fighting operational-level battles on the Eastern Front
Bob Cordery has offered the wargaming community many sets of rules where simplicity is the primary goal. One of these, Operational Art, are “Wargames rules for re-fighting operational-level battles on the Eastern Front”. Players are army commanders with one or more divisions. Stands represent regiments or HQ units (divisional, corps, army, or front). The manoeuvre units are divisions and “groups of assets”; these activation/move together. A division comprises the divisional HQ and a number of combat units (regiments). Corps, army or front assets are grouped in the same way, with an HQ and combat units. Operational art is not explicit on the ground scale but I’ve had guess based on what the rules say. The battlefield comprises 10cm hexes. Units are based 4x4cm (unless vehicle models are larger). Foot movement is 2 hexes per turn; vehicles and cavalry move 4 hexes. Units have ranges with infantry regiments firing 1-2 hexes and heavy artillery firing up to 10 hexes. Based on that I’m guessing a hex represents about 2km from flat-to-flat side, giving an approximate ground scale of 1:20,000. There are 12 turns per day so each turn is roughly 1-2 hours. There are no supply/logistics rules.
Despite the name of the rules, “Operational Art”, I think this is an Operational-Tactical game. Aspirations to Operational status are undermined by the modest size of units (regiments), the fact that infantry have unit ranges and hence the ground scale is very small, the fact that game turns are 1-2 hours, and the lack of a logistical 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.
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.
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:
|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 is my condensation of several rules/scenarios by Martin Rapier. These include:
- The Battle of Cambrai
- Operation Uranus
- Operation Uranus: An operational WW2 game (Rapier, 2006, p 16-18)
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.
(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.
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:
- Command: Allow the player to command, on table, an entire corp, army, or army group
- Stand: A stand represents a Regiment / Brigade (two levels of command lower), or, at the absolute outside, a battalion (three levels of command lower)
- Ground Scale: Have a ground scale of 1:25,000 (or more)
- Game Duration: The time scale of the game must span multiple days and perhaps weeks or months
- 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.
|Level of command||Typical numbers|
|Division / Legion||10-15,000|
|Regiment / Brigade||2-4,000|
|Section / Squad||8-12|
(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.
Note: I’m not a fan of the Bathtub approach in wargaming. Bathtubbing is a mechanism to use smaller scale rules to fight larger scale battles or operations. You could, for example, if you had a spare hour, use a one-to-one skirmish wargame to fight the entire Eastern Front where each man represents a German Army Group or Soviet Front. But it wouldn’t be a good simulation. So I ignore bathtubbing options.
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.
Operational rules meet all the criteria for what makes a set of wargaming rules operational level.
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.
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.
Following my analysis some of the game systems are definitely tactical and not operational. The main reason for this is having stands representing companies.
Griffiths, P. (2009). “Paddy Griffith’s Napoleonic Wargaming for Fun”. lulu.com.
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
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.