Thursday, March 9, 2017

Angriff! - review

This is another review in the Once and Future Rules series, of wargame rules that are out of print, but that got a lot of play at one time (at least, in the clubs and groups I played in since the early 1980s).

This is a review of the Angriff rules, by Myers and Zimmermann, from 1968.  The version I have, and am reviewing (in particular) is the version I played just after high school, from the 1982 printed version.  While I only played these, by themselves, a little in the 1980s, I liked them, and would continue to use the infantry rules with other sets of tank rules, for a very long time.  Before I get into the detailed review, a little history and nostalgia about my history with WW2 rules and wargaming.

 World War 2 wargaming, has been a very large part of my wargaming experience from the beginning.  Before coming to miniatures and miniature wargaming, I started with board games that had a WW2 flavor, and also I had been an avid military model builder, mostly of US ground vehicles from WW2.  Moving into miniatures, my first foray was into Napoleonics, as described earlier in another review, and that gave way to medieval skirmish gaming very quickly (as something my co-gamers at the time were interested in).

However, my brothers and I, like lots of kids from that generation, also grew up on a steady diet of WW2 war movies and books.  So when the possibility of building some WW2 miniatures, and coming up with rules, came upon us, we used the plastic HO (including all the near-HO scales, 1:87, 1:76, and 1:72) models for infantry from Airfix and Atlantic, as well as all the many HO scale models we had built and painted.  The rules were based on my experience, at the time, with the Hinchliffe guide, as well as some books from the library on wargaming.  It seemed to me that these types of games, unlike the "obviously" much more scientific SPI and Avalon Hill games, could be written by an amateur.  So I came up with some rules.  They were simple.  Tanks moved 8".  Jeeps moved 12".  Infantry moved 4".  Shooting was by numbers of D6, and the number of 6s rolled were casualties.  A US Sgt with a SMG was by far the most dangerous element in the game (thanks John Wayne movies).

Moving forward, I got a little more interested in more formal rules.  I got a copy of Tractics, from TSR.  I really liked the first book - Tank and AntiTank, but it was just a little bit too much detail.  That remains true today for lots of people who encounter Tractics.

Moving forward, I tried some other rules sets, eventually (later on) setting on Overwatch, but in the meantime, I tried the Angriff rules and also the WRG 1925-1950 rules.  One thing I encountered early on was the fantastic magazine, Wargamer's Digest, from Gene McCoy.

The pictures of battles, and the fantastic tabletop scenarios and maps, along with Gene's system 76 order of battle system were extremely exciting, and one of the things that drove my interest in this period.  So when I got into Angriff, and saw the possibility of representing troops in a way similar to Gene's - with a single tank for a command vehicle, and then a tank representing each platoon, so a company might have a total of four models.  That works great for Angriff, and was the scale of gaming I wanted to do.  I never used a total of 30 miniatures on a stand to represent the infantry, as Angriff requests, but usually I would have a stand of three miniatures to represent a platoon or section.

The rulebook itself is divided up into (roughly) two sections.  The first, up to page 24, is the actual wargames rules.  This covers a variety of different topics:

  • Unit organization
  • Preparing for Battle
  • Movement of Forces
  • Sighting
  • Terrain Descriptions
  • Artillery Fire
  • Tank Fire
  • Small Arms Fire
  • The Melee
  • The Charge
  • Percentage and Direct Fire Tables
  • Engineers
  • Urban Warfare
  • Morale Factors
  • Odds-n-Ends

The second section is the set of detailed appendices.  This runs from page 25, through to the end of the book, at page 62.  This is an excellent set of charts covering not only the modeling of combat phenomena in the wargame rules (such as vehicle parameters, and weapon systems range and accuracy), but also things like typical order of battle charts for common organizations from WW2.  As a very useful resource from the time, there is also a list of manufacturers that make HO and Micro scale WW2 models.

So, as mentioned, the rules call for a 1-to-1 representation on tabletop by vehicle models, but using stands for infantry is recommended (a stand for 10 men is perfect).  However . . . as mentioned, most of the time when I played these rules, we used 1 vehicle for a platoon, when translating a historical OB or one of Gene McCoy's excellent scenarios.  That gets a little funky sometimes, but seems to work for most scenarios.

  • Ground scale is 50 yards to an inch.  (I can't find it now that I am looking, but I recall that in micro scale it is 100 yards to an inch).
  • Turns appear to be about a minute per turn (calculating backwards from the movement rates).

Turn Sequence
Angriff has each player roll 2d6, to determine initiative.  High roller gets to chose to be player A or player B in the following sequence.  Note, as you read through this, that phases 1 and 2, as well as phases 6 and 7 are each roughly simultaneous.  So, while player A does phase 1, then player B does phase 2, the results of those are simultaneous.  Everything else, happens when it happens.

  1. Side A moves 1/3 of its move, plus an additional 3" for all vehicles or men on roads.
  2. Side B moves 1/3 of its move, plus an additional 3" for all vehicles or men on roads.
  3. Artillery fire, if any, commences.
  4. Tanks or vehicle mounted weapons fire.
  5. Small arms fire, if any, commences.
  6. Side B moves the remaining 2/3 of its move (but only 1/3 if it has fired).
  7. Side A moves the remaining 2/3 of its move (but only 1/3 if it has fired). 
  8. Melee combats.

No movement plotting, no order writing.  The importance of moving first or second, in turn phases 1/2 and 6/7 is of course the psychology of giving away your intended position before your opponent moves, so it may be useful to move second (i.e. choose being Player B if you are high roller for initiative).  Equally, being player A could be important, it is up to the player.

As can be expected from the turn sequence, all movement distances (given in the rules by vehicle type; or a total of 6" for dismounted infantry) are divisible by 3.  So dismounted infantry can move 2" in the first move phase, and then 4" in the second move phase, if they did not fire.

Infantry that are dismounted, can also move an additional 6" at the end of a move, representing a forced march.  This takes place, simultaneously for infantry of both sides, following phase 8 of the turn (i.e. - after everything else, include melee combats).  An infantry element can only force march three rounds in a row, and then has to take a break of a Full turn with no movement.  If an infantry element force marches for two rounds in a row, then it has to take a Half turn rest.  Alternating force march with regular moves mean that no rest periods are needed.

What this 'force march' business means is that an infantry element can cover 12" of tabletop distance in a turn, by force marching (pretty good for most WW2 rules).  Also, while force marching, the infantry can fire, but only at half effect.

Terrain, in the game, is officially in four different types - Woods (which may be moderate/light or dense/heavy), Hills (which are assumed to be contoured, like "wedding cake" hills), Swamps, and Rivers (which come in 3 classes, or widths).

Loading a vehicle is handled very much like old school rules handled Artillery in horse and musket games.  Infantry in Angriff, as regards loading and unloading, can do any two actions.  These can be (1) loading, (2) moving, and (3) unloading.  The same applies to towed guns and equipment.  Large artillery can only be moved by heavy movers, not being manhandled.

The typical sighting distance is 1750 yards, or 35 inches.  The game handles units that are out of LOS, or beyond sighting distance, by using poker chips to represent small groups of troops.

Looking into or through woods is even more limited (10" if looking  into moderate woods; 5" if looking into dense woods).

Rules are in place for how much can be hidden in a building, and how and where visibility markers are replaced by actual units, etc.

Artillery Fire
The rulebook covers barrage fire, but recommends against it for the scale engagements the rules are representing.  That never stopped a wargamer, however here I will cover the recommended use of artillery pieces in direct fire (and limited indirect fire, such as with a forward observer).

So, firing an artillery piece, or even a tank weapon, that is firing High Explosive rounds (rather than armor penetrators) allows the weapon to have an impact on crew members of towed weapons, and exposed infantry, within 2" of the point of attack of the weapon.  The effect is very simple, and is a number of casualties in that impact circle based on the caliber of the weapon.  If this kills all the crew of a served weapon, then the weapon is also considered destroyed (for game purposes).  Note that such fire is limited to the normal 35" sighting range.

Indirect fire, by using an observer, is allowed for any range up to the maximum for the weapon, as long as an observer is within 35" of the target.  The rules prohibit towed AT and AA weapons from firing this way, as they were designed and intended to work differently.

As mentioned, barrage fire is defined in the rulebook, for artillery assets that might be off board, but it is advised against because it is out of the scope for the engagements envisioned in the rules.  One of the interesting things about barrage fire in these rules is how simply it is handled (another mark for the elegance of these rules).
  1. Construct a grid like the one pictured here, on clear acetate (12"x18" for HO; 6"x9" for Micro).  
  2. Place the star over the aiming point of the barrage fire, with the top of the star pointing aligned in the direction of the barrage (i.e. - pointing away from where the firing battery is located).  
  3. Then roll 2d6.  
  4. If you are using a small battery (i.e. tubes smaller than 135mm), then the two numbers are the squares that are hit by the barrage.  
  5. If you are using a large battery, then those two numbers, as well as the sum of the two, are the squares that are hit.  
  6. If you roll doubles on the dice, then that is a bad barrage, and only the one square is struck (plus the sum, if a large battery).  
The book then gives a series of four charts corresponding to different artillery tube sizes (75-99mm; 100-135mm; 136-175mm; and 176mm and up).  The sum of the two targeting dice are consulted on the corresponding table, and it gives the total number of AFVs, soft vehicles (listed as trucks), and dismounted Men that are killed in each square affected.  Simple, and fast.

Direct Fire - Tank and Anti-Tank
Considering the era that these rules were first published, and the rarity (at the time) of percentile dice, the method that the rules handle percentage-chance-of-hit for firing direct heavy weapons is rather clever.  Also, consider that for most WW2 land rules, the bread and butter is the tank-on-tank set of adjudication rules - and for Angriff this is no different.  They work well, and that is what makes the ruleset memorable.

First, the chance to hit with a weapon is determined from national weapon characteristics tables (in the appendices) that give a basic chance for each range bracket, for each weapon type.  That basic chance represents the typical chance to score a hit, with no significant modifiers.

The possible percentage numbers (resulting from the weapons/range chart), along with the hit numbers for 2d6, are:

Hit on (2d6 scores)
78%2 3 4 6 7 8 10 11 12
72%3 4 6 7 8 10 11
67%2 4 6 7 8 10 12
61%4 6 7 8 10
50%2 4 6 8 10 12
44%6 7 8
33%4 7 10
28%2 6 8
17%4 10
11%3 11
6%2 12

Second, look up that percentage on the Percentage Table (above).  This will then give a number of results on a pair of D6 dice (2-12).  If those results are added up, the percentage is approximately the numbers represented on the table.  Scoring any of those numbers on 2d6 (with one of them being red, more later on that) means a hit is scored.

The simplest modifier for this is that if the weapon is stationary (i.e. - did not move this turn) then the number 5 (in the 2-12 spread) is also counted as a hit (if you look at the above chart, you will see that 5 and 9 are never regular hit numbers).  And if both the firing weapon and the target are stationary, then the numbers 5 and 9 are added in as hit results.

If firing at a concealed target, the first time firing at it, the percentage table drops one category.

Third, determine the effects of a hit.  If against a towed weapon, it is automatically destroyed.  If against another AFV, then the red d6 comes into play.  There is a hit location table, for direct fire combat. It is divided up into five columns, corresponding to the facing of the target vehicle that the hit came in on.  It can come in on the Front, Side, Rear, or Front-Side (front corner), or Rear-Side (rear corner).  Then, the red d6 is consulted, and a location is generated.  These include:

  • Gun Shield
  • Front Turret
  • Front Driver
  • Front Bottom
  • Track
  • Side hull
  • Side Turret
  • Rear Hull
  • Rear Turret

For each location, the national vehicle characteristics tables will give an armor thickness.  For each range bracket of a weapon, in addition to giving the accuracy of the weapon at that range, the amount of armor penetration is also given.  If the shot penetrates the armor, the target vehicle is dead.

Here is an example of the hit location chart.  Assume that the shot is coming in the front of the vehicle, and consult the red d6:
  1. Gun Shield
  2. Front Turret
  3. Front Drive
  4. Front Bottom
  5. Front Driver
  6. Track

This is a very elegant system, again from a time when percentile dice were not common.  Tractics, if I recall, tried to get away from a dice spread that was different from what you could easily do with d6s, and they used a random number generator that was based on 20 numbered chips in a bag, draw one to simulate rolling 1d20.


Modification/Houserule: Rather than using the d6 system... you could just roll percentile dice against the number you have gotten from the weapon/range chart.  To this add 11% if  you are firing while stationary, and 22% if you AND the target are stationary.  Example: if you get 61% chance, then roll percentile dice, and on a 61 or less, you have a hit.  Of course you then have to roll 1d6 for hit location, and of course, that means that you will lose the charm of certain hit locations not happening on certain percentile rolls (because of how the 2d6 method works), but it means one less chart look up during direct fire adjudication.  This assumes that a modern wargamer could get, and want to use, percentile dice rather than the one pure die type - the sacred d6.

Example of direct fire AFV combat -
A Panzer Mk IV F1 tank is facing off, face on, against a T34 A.  The range is 1000 yards (20") and both tanks moved this turn.

The MkIV fires a 75mm/L24 gun, so we consult the German chart for that weapon, and find that at 1000 yards the 75mm/L24 has a 44% chance to hit and penetrates 51mm of armor.

The T34 fires a 76.2mm/L30 gun, so we consult the Russian chart for that weapon, and find that at 1000 yards, the 76.2mm/L30 has a 61% chance to hit, and penetrates 85mm of armor.

The firing is simultaneous.  According to the percentage hit table, the German tank will hit on 6,7, or 8 on the dice.  The Russian tank will hit on 4,6,7,8 or 10 on the dice.

The German player rolls, a 3 and a 5, with the 5 being the red dice.  A total of 8 means a hit, on location 5.  Looking at the Front table for hit location (above), we see that a 5 is the Front Driver position of the tank.  Looking at the Russian vehicle table, we find that the T-34 A has only 45mm of armor at that location, so the German gun (which penetrates 51mm) will score a kill.

The Russian player rolls a 5 and a 2, with the 2 being the red dice.  A total of 7 means a hit, on location 2.  Looking at the Front table (above), we see that a 2 is the Front Turret position of the tank.  Looking at the German vehicle table, we find that the PzMkIVF1 has only 30mm of armor at that location, so the Russian gun (which penetrates 85mm of armor) will score a kill.

T-34/76 A (1941)

Direct Fire - Small Arms
This system is, if anything, even simpler than the tank/anti-tank system.

It involves calculating the total number of firing points (from a chart) that are firing on an enemy target (which could be a single stand, a weapon team, a group of stands, or a vehicle).  These points come from infantry stands (1 pt per stand, if it represents 5 or more men), LMGs (2 points), HMGs (3 points), Mortars (2 points), and Flamethrowers (2 points).  there is a slight modification to the total number of points for the range.  Then 2d6 are rolled against a Kill Factor table, which gives a resulting number between 1 and 3.  Multiply the kill factor by the number of calculated points, and that is the number of casualties.  This is simultaneous.

If firing small arms at vehicles, the only which may be affected in this system are soft vehicles, and wheeled armored vehicles (such as armored cars).  Tracked AFVs are immune to small arms fire, in this sytem.  Against a soft vehicle, if the vehicle takes small arms fire, and that includes either rifles or MGs, then there is a 50% chance for a hit (roll 2d6, as above, with a hit on 2,4,6,8,10,12).  Further, if the results are either 2, 6 or 8, then it is a kill (otherwise a disable).  Against a wheeled AFV, this chance drops to 33%, so a hit is on 4,7,10.  No chance to kill a wheeled AFV, only disable it.

Close Combat
As with Small Arms fire, the close combat system is interesting, works well, and is based on a number of points of Attackers vs Defenders.  Infantry is easy, with 1 point per man involved in a close combat.  Vehicles get points for thickness of armor, and also for the number of machine guns.

The procedure is to add all the points for each side in a melee together (Note: a melee is when a group of attackers end their last move of the turn within 1 inch of the defender - this makes for an interesting twist on the turn order - in order to be the attacker you have to be Side A).   Compare the two points totals, and derive a ratio.  The attacker must have at least 1-2 odds in order to attack.  Then the attacker rolls 2d6 on a Melee Effects Table, and it gives a resulting letter.  Look up that letter on the Melee Losses table, and you will find what percentage of Attackers or Defenders have died, in terms of the points for their side.

The results on the loss table will be a percentage of loss for each side, and an indicator of which side (attacker or defender) has to retreat (which is a full move for vehicles, and Infantry must retreat 18" or to the nearest supporting unit).

Units can charge into combat, which they announce at the start of a turn, then move.  Vehicles get a whole move, and infantry gets 9".  If contact is not made, then the unit gets no further move that turn, but can engage in small arms fire at half effect.

If the charge is successful, then both sides can (possibly - 50% chance) engage in small arms fire before the melee.   This is at point blank range, and the chance is determined by rolling 2d6 (again, the percentage table is consulted, so at 50% success is at a 2,4,6,8,10,12 on the dice).  If this is successful (each side rolls separately), then the Defender can fire at full effect, and the Attacker can fire at half effect.  If the Defender is successful at the 50% test, then he may also introduce reinforcements from units within 6".

On turns after a charge, infantry can only move 2" and vehicles only 1/3 of their normal move.

The rules cover a number of extras including the following:
  • Engineering (including entrenching, vehicle repair, laying bridges, demolition, mines and obstacle breaching, and laying smoke).
  • Urban Warfar
  • Morale (which affects campaign moves and committment to combat)
  • Weather
  • Capturing equipment

As you could probably tell from my review of the rules' sections above, I am a big fan of Angriff.  Yes, there is the problem of having to consult four different tables for each AFV firing (weapon table for the firer's chance and penetration, percentage table for dice chance, hit table for location, and target vehicle table for armor).  But this is no different from other rule sets.  Consider Overwatch, very similar.  But Angriff plays fast, and it gives great results.  It was relied on by the gaming groups I was in for many years as a means of providing reasonable Infantry (and other small arms fire) adjudication for other tank-centric games (like the already mentioned Overwatch).

Some of the problems in the system are the problems of scale - in some places, the scale is different for HO (or more commonly these days, 20mm or 15mm in addition to HO) and Micro scaled vehicles and ranges, but it is never clearly laid out (like the 9" move for infantry charges - is that only 4.5" in micro?).  But these are minor problems, and could easily be settled on by a group as a set of rules by practice, rather than rules as written.  It lends itself to all sorts of additional house rules (aircraft, parachuting operations, landings, etc) - but in the end it is a very solid set of move and shoot rules for armor and infantry, with reasonable artillery rules that play fast.

More modern rules might do things differently - for instance, I love the command and control rules in Blitzkrieg Commander.  Other rules might introduce a random factor for penetration (such as in Firefly, if I recall).  But as written, for a nice evening game, or a convention game where you want your gamers to know the rules after just a turn or two Angriff is still excellent.

My own house rule suggestions
  • Angriff works great if you prepare vehicle information cards for each side, or a  simple vehicle information sheet, that has the vehicle and weapons stats JUST for the platforms used in your particular game.
  •  Add in an extra factor to small arms and close combat for command stands/vehicles.
  • Use the percentile dice system (described above) instead of the Percentage Table.


Jonathan Freitag said...

Another fine review, Charles! I have had these rules for many, many, many years but have yet to give them a try. Mine are Second Edition, I believe.

Charles Turnitsa said...

Thanks, Jonathan. If you give them a try, either solo or with some friends, please let me know.

Shaun Travers said...

I too have these rules but never played them. thanks for the comprehensive review - very interesting. Tractics was our game of choice in the early 80's and I played it lots. We rolled all the to hit etc dice at once to speed it up, different coulours determining what was what. Sso we usually rolled 5 dice at once - to hit (d20), hit location (d20), automatic damage (d20), degree of damage (d6) and crew casualties (d6). The Tractics infantry rules were a d20 with lots of mods so instead we just played with a fast d6 version.

Ed M said...

Another excellent review and trip down memory lane. Thanks, Chuck!
I still have my tan copy of Angriff! This was my entry point into
miniatures gaming using micro-armor. Speaking of Wargamer's Digest, it was an advert in the back of that magazine that brought me to Walther's Hobby to buy it. I recall many, many games using Angriff! back then, all of which ran very smoothly--oddly. enough, when I re-read the rules today, I run into snags with some of the infantry rules that I can't quite figure out how we handled then. I'll have to relook in the light of your tips and hints.

Charles Turnitsa said...

Thanks Ed. I can't be 100% sure I got all my memories right. It might be time to rouse out the Afrika Corps and the Eighth Army for a fight soon.

One thing is true, I sure miss the older war games magazines, especially titles with character like Gene's Digest.

Jonathan Freitag said...

RE Wargamer's Digest
I discovered WD in the mid-70s while in high school. My first introduction to wargaming-related publications. Read each issue cover to cover and repeatedly during those days. "Repeatedly" began to have a dual meaning in the early 80s when articles seemed to get recycled with great regularity. Luckily, I found MWAN. Boy, I miss MWAN most of wargame mags, I think. Still have my copies of both today and pull them off the shelf occasionally.

Charles Turnitsa said...

I wish there was a digital access to both WD and MWAN. Magweb was a pretty good idea, Not sure what happened to them.