Heretical Gaming is my blog about my gaming life, featuring small skirmishes and big battles from many historical periods (and some in the mythic past or the far future too). The focus is on battle reports using a wide variety of rules, with the occasional rules review, book review and odd musing about the gaming and history. Most of the battles use 6mm-sized figures and vehicles, but occasionally 15mm and 28mm figures appear too.

Thursday 31 December 2015

Review of Martin England's Threat Generation System from Miniature Wargames 373

I have recently been using Martin England's Threat Generation System, published in Miniature Wargames 373, for WW2 solitaire gaming.  I have previously really struggled to create satisfiying WW2 solo games, because it isn't a "troops on the table" period.  The distortions caused by the "helicopter general" effect, although present in all battles in all periods, seem to create the greatest dissonace in WW2 games.  To me, to feel like a WW2 game, surprise and concealment simply has to be in there and simply turning the tables and playing both sides won't work when these are key tactical concerns.  The author, Martin England, seems to have felt something similar, bemoaning the fact that his solo miniature wargames couldn't compete with the tension of playing computer games in this period.  Even his face-to-face games weren't comparable: one can use dummy units and suchlike, but even they give far too much information about enemy locations and intentions .He (unlike me!) managed to turn his dissatisfaction into a suitable system for overcoming these problems.

In essence, the system is simplicity itself:

First, create an order of battle for the enemy.  Each enemy unit will have a card and an equal number of blank cards are added.  These cards are shuffled and a third discarded.  I have adapted this system so that the enemy may have 'core' units which are added to the pack after this, so if "intelligence" knows that a platoon of Tigers is spearheading the attack, then there will be at least one Tiger card.  You get the idea.  This was very useful for the recent Op Martlet mini-campaign as a "core" British platoon takes on a "core" German platoon through the campaign.

Then generate the "threat" by drawing one of these cards every time a unit moves.  I adapted this to be one card every turn to give a slightly slower game.  To my mind, choosing this is a good way of controlling how the scenarios will play out: defending against an all-out assault will probably require a card for every player action.

A direction is then generated for the threat by a weighted dice roll (i.e. there is much more chance that the enemy will appear to the front, but a significant chance that some enemy will annoyingly appear on the flank), then a distance and then an activity (moving/static/dug-in etc.).  The author also generates a simple "character" for the commander of the enemy unit to help him decide between actions when in doubt.  I must admit I didn't use this, preferring a simple odds-evens die roll to decide between options when doubt arose.  

There is more detail in the article and I would throroughly recommend that any solo gamer wanting to play in periods after 1900 should purchase the magazine and at least have a look.  Science Fiction gamers might also be able to use the system.  And the system itself is singularly adaptable, by making changes in the ratio of real cards to "empty threats", the rate of drawing the cards, the variation in the distances that the threats are generates, the "activity" of the generated unit, and so on.  I'd like to thank the author and publisher for presenting such a useful and adapatable system.  Highly recommended for the solo gamer!

And some examples of the system in action on my blog here


  1. Thanks for highlighting this in your 2021 post, as its something I have been looking for. I tracked down this article and I had a question (since I can't find the author online). What happens to an enemy unit if it has not been spotted?. The article mentions removing it from the table but retaining the card, and then activating the unit in subsequent turns.

    1. Yes, just so. There are two bits to this. If the enemy unit is not *visible* (i.e. there is a theoretical LOS) at the activated range, it is moved back (i.e. along the same clock face line) until it is *visible*. If it isn't ever *visible*, then it comes on as reinforcements instead. As with all other enemy units, it is then operated by the player to the best of their ability in accordance with their activity (as in the 'what are they doing bit' in their generation).
      If the enemy fires and then is not *spotted* by the player's forces, it is removed from the table and the card is put back in the pack.
      Does that all make sense?

  2. I’ve been experimenting with adding some variant cards such as mortar and artillery barrages, ranging shots, mines, and snipers to the threat deck. In moderation, they really seem to add a lot of flavor to my battles. Such cards are centered on the unit that just acted rather than the direction template. I’ve been using the TGS with Too Fat Lardies “What a Tanker” rules.

    Don Bailey

    1. It is a good idea - I have sometimes added similar things in myself, although I have tended to add in the physical unit rather than the effect (e.g. the forward observer, rather than the artillery barrage, with the latter being implied by the former). The system can handle anything really that could be described as a threat.