Friday 26 February 2021
A WW2 Rules Revolution
How does a new project start? It's often hard to pin down. But a week or two ago something made me get these old WRG rules down from the shelf, where they have lingered for at least 40 years. With a couple of house moves in recent years prompting the need to slim down the bookshelves, many of my old rule sets have made their way into landfill. But these guys have always been retained.
I can't claim to have ever been a big player of these rules, but I did play a game or two back in the day. Even then they seemed like a set that had potential, rather than a really finished product. I ended up developing my own WW2 rules, which eventually got over-complex and were dropped in favour of the old Peter Pig rules, Abteilung. Since then it's been a succession of commercial sets, leading to my present use of the Battlegroup rules.
Back To The Future
Battlegroup have always been good fun, and I've had some excellent games with them. But I have always had some reservations. I won't bore you with the details, but overall I often had the feeling they were just a bit too much. Big coffee-table books, with lots of special rules and detail that could produce interesting game play but were also easy to forget about if you didn't play regularly. These rules had chrome with a capital 'C'. The other main thing was that they were, at heart, a set for individually based figures of at least 20mm size, which had an alienating effect for someone using 15mm figures based in groups of four. And I never really worked out the difference between Points Values and Battle Ratings.
And so one evening, there I was with a copy of the 1973 WRG set in my hand. Hmmm, these look pretty simple. And the whole set (covering everything from the Spanish Civil War to the Korean War) is about 35 pages in a book smaller than A4. Perhaps there might be something here for the occasional WW2 gamer.
The main thing I remembered was the 50mm infantry move. Just 2 inches? Right from my first reading of the rules all those years ago, that simple fact had told me that these couldn't really be a serious prospect for proper wargaming. But giving them a good re-read (or two) convinced me that there was an absorbing project here - revising the rules to my own satisfaction for a more straightforward WW2 gaming experience. And the first thing I would do was simply change that 50mm move to 100mm.
Over the years I've been pretty disparaging about a lot of WRG rule books - in recent times, the old 'ancients' books in particular. The successor to the 1973 WW2 rules, which came out in 1988, I found to be genuinely and grimly unplayable. They went to the council dump many moons ago. But the 1973 book always had the feel of a classic that perhaps I didn't fully appreciate, but might do one day. That day appears to have come. Here I would like to quote the man himself, Phil Barker, from a 1980s article in Miniature Wargames magazine:
"It does a rule writer no credit to fail to acknowledge his debt [to older rule sets], or even to blackguard his predecessors. Something can be learned from all of them, even if only what to avoid".
Indeed. It is easy to pick holes in forty-year-old rule sets with the benefit of hindsight. But on the other hand, it can't be denied that 'what to avoid' is sometimes only too apparent. However, enough of that.
Forward To The Past
And so off I go. I've started my re-write, and played a single test game (solo of course). I believe I may be on to a winner. There is much I will change, but there is also much to admire; like the simple fire-before-moving sequence which makes excellent sense in a WW2 game, and the straightforward yet mostly satisfying firing procedures. And one particularly brilliant aspect is the absence of any kind of 'melee' or 'close combat' rules. They are simply completely absent, with the possibility of such processes unmentioned. So close encounters between opposing troops are simply resolved by the standard firing rules, which seems to work very well. And as we all know, that's exactly what resolved 'close combat' in WW2 encounters - firing at very close range. The final clincher may well be that this is a set of rules firmly based on infantry 'elements', meaning groups of 4 figures mounted on a single base. That's more like it!
I'll keep you posted. And rest assured, if I develop anything like a workable set, it will be shared online. Right up to the point when they become the top-selling set of rules for WW2 miniatures!
'Til next time!