Battle!
Practical Wargaming

Wargame Rules Review

Battle: Practical Wargaming, by Charles Grant

Battle! Practical Wargaming consists of a compilation of articles by veteran wargamer Charles Grant, published in Meccano Magazine from mid-1968 until December 1970, and released in book form in late 1970. In each chapter, Charles Grant briefly analyses an aspect of modern warfare, like the movement of infantry and vehicles, the capabilities of small arms, machine guns, hand grenades, mortars, bazookas, artillery, anti-tank guns, or armour protection, and formulates simple wargame rules to recreate an action on the tabletop battlefield. The game is played with six-sided dice, and the wargamer will have to build a simple "tank stick" and five templates cut from clear plastic sheet to measure ranges, strike angles, the fall of shot and to indicate shell-bursts. The photos in the book feature Airfix 1:76 scale infantry alongside ROCO 1:87 scale vehicles, Soviet troops riding German SWS armoured prime-movers into battle, British 6-pounders standing in as Soviet 57 mm ZIS-2 anti-tank guns, and Airfix 1st edition US Marines posing as post-war troops with 90 mm recoilless guns, Leopard tanks, and NATO Hotchkiss APCs. Perfectionists may balk at these mismatches, but it's actually quite refreshing to enjoy the game with whatever model hardware may be at hand. In fact, the routine employment of stand-ins for carriers, halftracks, armoured cars, tanks, artillery, and anti-tank weapons of hidden quality is a simple, compelling and cost-effective way to emulate the fog of war in tabletop wargames.

Contents

  • Title: Battle! Practical Wargaming
  • Period: late WW2
  • Type: Tactical Wargame
  • Time Scale: 1 turn = 1 minute
  • Ground Scale: 1:1200 (3 inches = 100 yards)
  • Troop Scale: 1 figure = 5 men
  • Casualty rate per minute at 100 meters range: (unmodified)
    • Rifleman (Bolt Action): 0.33 hits
    • Rifleman (Garand): n.a.
    • Rifleman (StG44): n.a.
    • Sub-Machine Gun: 0.5 hits
    • Light Machine Gun (Bren): n.a.
    • Light Machine Gun (MG 42): n.a.
    • Medium Machine Gun (tripod MG 42, Vickers): 0.66 hits
    • Heavy Machine Gun (.50 cal. M2 Browning): 0.66 hits
  • Armour penetration benchmarks
    • Lingèvres (75 mm Sherman vs. Panther turret side armour, 400 yards): 1.6% per game turn
  • Author: Charles Grant
  • Format: 159-page rule book
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Angus Books Ltd., Watford
  • Published: 1970

Chapters

  1. Introduction to Battle
  2. A Beginning with the Rules
  3. Rules for Movement
  4. The Infantryman's Weapons
  5. Artillery Range
  6. The Defensive Power of Armour
  7. The Use of Dice
  8. Strike Value of Anti-Tank Guns
  9. More about Anti-Tank Guns
  10. Anti-Tank Guns – The Final Point
  11. Armoured Action
  12. Infantry Weapons
  13. More Infantry Weapons
  14. Hand Grenades & Mortars
  15. Infantry Organisation
  16. Action at Twin Farms
  17. Communications
  18. Artillery Fire
  19. Artillery Organisation
  20. Infantry HQ Company
  21. Mainly About Mines
  22. Reconnaissance in Force
  23. Continuing Reconnaissance
  24. Morale
  25. More About Morale
  26. The "Morale" Rule in Operation

Evaluation

Battle! covers typical infantry weapons like pistols/revolvers, rifles, sub-machine guns, heavy machine guns, bazookas, 81 mm mortars, and hand grenades. Light machine guns are not included, they seem to be factored into the rifle and sub-machine gun fire of the infantry section. The British 25 pdr. field gun, German 10.5 cm field howitzer, and Russian 76 mm field gun are the sole artillery weapons covered in the rules, any other types will have to be extrapolated from the parameters provided for these three field pieces. Similarly, there are only ten tank/anti-tank guns, four German, three Russian, two British, and one US. While the Artillery Range Table on page 31 gives the German 88 mm and British 17 pdr. guns a maximum armour piercing (AP) range of 60 inches, the table of strike values on page 47 reduces the maximum AP effective range of tank/anti-tank guns to 45 inches.

The table of armour defence values on page 38 lists the German Panzer V (Panther) tank, but the Panther's formidable 7.5 cm L.70 KwK 42 main gun is not mentioned in the corresponding table of strike values. It's interesting to note that this particular 75 mm gun achieved much better armour penetration than the 88 mm main gun of the Tiger I tank, and it would be a mistake to arm any scale model Panther with the German "75 mm (long)" included in these rules, which is in fact the comparatively weak 7.5 cm L.48 KwK 39 & PaK 39 of the Panzer IV. Clearly, the plethora of German 75 mm tank guns cannot be reduced to just two types, long and short, without sacrifycing realism and throwing an important late-war vehicle like the Panther overboard.

Battle! allows turreted tanks to shoot at targets anywhere within their 360° arc of fire every turn, without regard to the actual turret traverse speed of different tanks. German Tiger and Panther tanks had heavy turrets which took 30-35 seconds to traverse completely, compared to only 10 seconds for the T-34, or 15 seconds for the Sherman and other US tanks. In a close range tank duel, faster turret traverse becomes a deciding factor. Sherman crews routinely attempted to outmaneuvre enemy Tigers and Panthers by driving around their flanks and firing at the weaker rear armour. Doing so in Battle! proves more difficult, as Tigers and Panthers traverse their turrets instantly to fire at Shermans on their flanks, knocking one out and dealing with anything on the opposite flank in the following game turn. Despite these shortcomings, Battle! offers a good game with the look and feel of World-War Two battles.

Beginners and experienced wargamers alike will find Battle! fun and easy to read. The selection of weapons and armoured vehicles covered in the book should be sufficient for a few interesting games, although campaign gamers may want to calculate their own weapon and vehicle stats for those guns and tanks not covered at all or rated incorrectly in the rules. Grant explains his reasoning behind the existing game parameters in enough detail to enable the experienced wargamer to add his/her own. The cruising speed of a wargame vehicle on roads is derived by halving the maximum speed in m.p.h. of the actual vehicle and converting the result to that number of inches per game turn. As an example, the British A.16 Crusader III had a maximum road speed of 26 mph which converts to 13" per turn in Battle! games. The result is halved or quartered again to determine the cross country speed of tracked and wheeled vehicles, respectively, resulting in a 7" off-road move for the Crusader III in our simple conversion experiment. There is no easy equation for armour defence values, but these can be extrapolated by comparing any new vehicle with the existing ones and deciding which relative position within the armoured vehicle list might be appropriate. If a vehicle turns out to be unrealistically powerful in subsequent tabletop engagements, simply reduce its armour defence value by one point and keep testing.

Old School Wargaming

Battle! by Charles Grant, now well over 40 years old, has become a classic over time. While there are more sophisticated and detailed wargame rules on the market today, many experienced wargamers return to Battle! for the fun and the visual appeal of this game.

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