Heretical Gaming is my blog about my gaming life; currently concentrating on a re-fight of the entire Peninsular War, but with the odd foray into ancient, medieval and WW2 battles.

Thursday, 31 December 2015

Review of WRG's 1925-1950 Wargames Rules

I have been playing the venerable old WRG 1925-1950 rules recently, using them for my recent solo Op Martlet mini-campaign.


The rules were written by Phil Barker and published in the early 1970s but still hold together reasonably well.   The rules are meant to cover the span from reinforced platoon to company-level actions.  Each turn represents about 30 seconds of activity.  1 model represents 1 real vehicle, an infantry base represent a c.4-man rifle team or a heavy weapons team.  Two ground scales are suggested: 1":100m for big tank battles using 1:300 scale vehicles, 1mm:1m for other games, or those using 1:72 scale vehicles.

Command is done by very basic written orders given to each platoon element. The game uses an IGOUGO turn sequence but firing comes before movement - this neatly precludes the need for any 'overwatch' rules (the firing player can move any opposing elements to anywhere they could be seen in the preceding player's movement).
The rules for spotting, movement and firing are all relatively simple.  Direct fire weapons test to hit - which effectively suppresses the target - and then test to destroy the target.  It is a simple D6 roll with very few modifiers (easily committed to memory). Area fire weapons work in a similar area but use beaten zones and a broadbrush "hit anything in the open with a 5+, anything in cover on a 6" type rule.  Spotting is done entirely by range (no dice rolls); it is difficult to spot concealed infantry and anti-tank weapons and so on!  Combined with the fire-first turn sequence, this obviates some of the difficulties caused by the all-seeing general syndrome and restores some of the effectiveness of these troop types in comparison to tanks (which are often easier to spot). 
Infantry is very hard to kill except at extremely short ranges.  This seems more-or-less in line with historical reality.  Machineguns are a lot more useful than rifles except at very close quarters and infantry attacks - even with superior numbers - are quite hard to sustain in the face of fire.  They will normally degenerate into a sporadic exchange of fire (again, all quite realistic).
The system uses very simple armour classes but they all seem sensible.  It doesn't give extensive equipment details and no orders of battle at all, so gamers have to do a tiny bit of homework to make sure they know what the weapons, armour class and speed of their vehicles will be (it takes five minutes, maximum).  The rules only allow suppression and knock-out results, there are no intermediate stages of damage, which some gamers may find too simplistic.
Morale is considered by means of a reaction test.  There are a number of situations where reaction tests must be taken and the chances of troops being halted and/or forced to retire to the nearest cover are reasonably high.  There are a rather larger number of morale modifiers than firing modifiers, although I became reasonably familiar with them after the first couple of games.
The rules cover the use of smoke, field engineering, air support and weather.  As befits a 1970s publication, there are no pictures of miniatures or even explanatory diagrams however the rules are tight enough to not require them.
Issues?  Smoke provision is very generous (I suggest using the rules as given but halving the distance screened, seems to work okay; since I play solitaire I may not have stumbled on the most game-y uses of smoke.  I like the infantry rules, although if playing using the 1":100m ground scale infantry movement will be very slow!   Some gamers might find the lack of differentiation between a rifle team, an SMG team and an StG44 team problematic, or the lack of differentiation between a Bren and an MG34. My own collection is for Normandy 1944, but I suppose that having deployed infantry mainly defend static positions in the midst of armour battles might not be a too bad fit for the Western Desert, say.  Again, I like the armour rules which I consider helpfully concentrate on the most fundamental details bit those looking for more tactical chrome may baulk at the simplifications, especially in the way damage is dealt with.  Some gamers may be pleased with the here are the rules, you work out the equipment and the organisation whilst others may prefer the "handbook" approach of Flames of War/Games Workshop's Codex system.  There are no special rules for specific equipment, tactics or "national characteristics" (with some marginal exceptions to the latter) which gamers may find very refreshing or a bit annoying.  A search online will yield details of the "bazooka backblast" exploit...
But I highly recommend these rules to gamers who want a fundamentally sound set of WW2 rules, which are now available free and play smoothly and quickly.  There are some examples of me using these rules here.


13 comments:

  1. Thanks for the great review. I have played them once about 30 years ago, and the modern version a few times. I keep meaning to play them - and do read them every few years - but other games get in the way! Infantry is very slow, and I seem to remember seeing somewhere a house rule to double all infantry move distances.

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  2. Thanks for your kind words. I think if I were to play a large-scale action using the 1":100m ground scale, I might double the infantry movement too. Using 1mm = 1m on a small table, I thought infantry movement was alright. After all, the board should only be 60cm x 60cm or so for an infantry company action (600m wide by 100m deployment area, 250m of no-man's land, 250m of enemy defence), or perhaps double the ground scale, which is what I did for my latest games.

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    1. I agree that on a 60cmx60cm at 1:1000, it would e best to leave the infantry at a 5cm move; but the AFVs could move over half the table! Of course, they would run into enemy very fast and the fire-move sequence makes this very bad. I am finding out in my own rules, also testing out company actions at about 1:800 on a 72cmx48cm table that I have tanks able to move halfway across the table, but they just don't as they do not know what is there and it would be bad to advance without infantry support. If I do try out the rules (likely on a small table), I can see now that doubling the infantry moves may not be required and won't do it in the first instance.

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    2. Yes, agreed. On balance it is generally best for the rules to encourage players not to do things rather than forbid them or warp the space-time continuum to restore balance.

      I found in practice that AFVs should be reluctant to move (and risk being fired upon first) and infantry reluctant to give their position away by opening up at long range.

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  3. I played these a few years back and really enjoyed them. Haven't played since though.

    Supposing I have 3 bases of 3 figures and 1 base of a single figure to represent a platoon. Would that be 10 dice rolls when firing? I would be playing at 1/72 scale.

    Just thinking how I can get my crossfire based figures working for a game of this set?

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  4. I'm not sure the best way of tackling these rules with that basing system. How many 10-figure platoons would you be thinking of using? And are you using 1 model:1 vehicle for tanks and support weapons?

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  5. I am think that AFVs would 1:1 but infantry would be one base (element) = one section. With about 10-15 platoons each of 3 sections to give a company or so a side of infantry.

    Would this work do you think or I am open to other suggestions?

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  6. I think that would work fine, although I suppose that 3 platoons of 10 elements would normally be a more typical way of organising a force. Having all the extra platoons would mean more faff doing orders and morale though (they are both done by the platoon). Maybe you could group your infantry forces into groups of 10 elements and have 2 or 3 bases representing a section?

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  7. Groups of 10 elements sounds much better. What ratio of infantry to tanks do you normally go for by the way? Mainly tanks or mainly infantry or balance of both?

    As an aside, a rules query. Am I right in thinking that a roll of 5 or more is a neutralise hit for a rifle group over 50m? AND to kill (KO) the target a second roll of 2 or more is required (for infantry at halt target).

    Thanks for your help.
    Joe

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    1. I don't have a ratio as such. I have never played with more than two platoons of tanks per side since I re-discovered these rules.

      Yes, 5+ to neutralize for a rifle group firing over 50m. And no, the 2+ is required to kill if the rifle group is within 25m. Otherwise a 6 is needed (for infantry at the halt).

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  8. What forces do you generally field and feel works? In terms of proportion of tanks vs infantry etc?

    Is there any support forums online that would be able to answer rules queries that you know? I have a few questions after re reading the rules?

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    1. I'm afraid I don't know of any support forum or suchlike. They were very popular a while ago though so I imagine there are a lot of people out there with experience of the rules.

      I feel the rules work best with 2 - 5 platoons for 1-3 hour games, upto a battalion if you have a full afternoon (but it is a long time since I played a full "battlegroup" game). I suppose not too different from Flames of War.

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    2. I don't think that the proportion of armour / infantry matters in that one works and the other doesn't, but it does very much change the feel of the game. Tanks can be effective at quite long ranges, infantry needs to be in close. If you are playing in dense terrain, infantry isn't invulnerable but it is almost invisible.

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