Sunday, July 22, 2018

Jagdpanzer - a rules 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).

Once upon a time, in Campaign Headquarters (in Newport News), there were some gamers called Alfred, Jason and Gary.  They played Jagdpanzer.

Once upon a time, in Campaign Headquarters, there were some gamers called Wayne and Oscar.  They played Jagdpanzer.

Once up on a time, in Campaign Headquarters, there was a gamer named Danny.  He played Jagdpanzer.

Most of the folks I played with in those years (mid to late 80s) were playing Overwatch.  Some were playing Angriff!  But not a small sampling were playing a set of rules called Jagdpanzer, published by Greenfield Hobbies, and authored by Kevin Cabai (a former armor Captain in the US Army).  This was when I tried the rules, and I liked them.

One of the strengths that I will applaud, right away, about Jagdpanzer, is that it is very inclusive.  It covers many different weapon systems (armor, infantry, artillery, airpower), all in rule subsystems that are very clean and workable.  The overall effect is a game that gives depth to all sorts of scenarios, but is not difficult to play.  Also, it avoids (by using a dice mechanism for penetration and kill, although informed by real life vehicle and weapon characteristics) the old problem that some rulesets have (I'm looking at you, Overwatch) of comparing mm of penetration, vs mm of armor, to determine a kill.  As an engineering professor, I realize it is not that simple, and that the number of variables present in any single shot to target situation are far to numerous (and perhaps unknowable) in order to present a way of modeling them all.  So why not use a dice mechanism to add in the fuzziness?  Mr. Cabai does just that in Jagdpanzer, and it works very well.

Another think I like very much about the game is that while it lists a ground scale (1 inch equals 25m), it gives all movement and weapon ranges in inches.  Nice.

Here is an overview of the rules, so you can see what I'm talking about, and I'll return with an assessment at the end.

Turn Sequence

Basic concept - On each turn, for each of your units (the basic unit is the platoon, which is usually 3-5 individual vehicle models), you decide if that unit is going to do one of the following three options:
1. Move and Fire
2. Move double (no fire)
3. Stationary (double fire)

A full turn consists of two movement and direct fire phases (see below).  For each of them, a vehicle decides if it is going to do one of the above options.  So in the first move phase of a turn, a unit could Double Move, and then couldn't fire during the first fire phase.  But then in the second move phase it could Normal Move (and fire in the second fire phase).

If a unit Moves and Fires, it is assuming that the unit is moving tactically, taking advantage of available cover, and is loaded and ready to engage if a target is found.

A unit that double Moves, is assumed to be moving at top available speed (cross country or road), and doesn't conform necessarily to available cover (so may be easier to hit).

A unit that double Fires is assumed to be stationary, and focused merely on firing and reloading as quickly as possible.

Based on that - here is the turn sequence, with some notes:

A. Determine Initiative - Roll 1d6 to determine who gets the choice of being Side A or Side B.
B. Command & Control (optional rules - a dice roll based on nationality to see if a unit activates or not).
C. Movement Phase
   1. Side A
   2. Side B
D. Direct Fire Phase
   1. Stationary Shooters fire Simultaneously
   2. Moving Shooters fire Simultaneously
   3. Stationary Shooters fire Simultaneously (a second time)
   4. Close Assaults
   5. Overrun Attacks
   6. Remove/Emplace Vehicle Smoke
E. Aircraft (optional)
   1. Movement
   2. Combat
F. Morale
G. Movement Phase
   1. Side B
   2. Side A
H. Direct Fire Combat (same as D.1 through D.6 from above)
I. Artillery
   1. Fire missions striking this turn will Impact
   2. Plot new fire missions
   3. Remove/Emplace Artillery Smoke
J. Morale

Movement - In phases C and G, movement takes place.  The two sides alternate who is the first mover, based on the Initiative dice at the beginning of the turn.  The first mover has 2 minutes (only) to move his Command Vehicles (the command vehicle for each unit).  Then his other vehicles in those units move to follow the command vehicle route.  Once the first player is done, then the second player only has 30 Seconds (!) to move his command vehicles.  Any command vehicles that do not move, mean that the other vehicles in their units will also not move that phase.
Movement rates are given for Road, Cross Country, and Rough Ground (wood, hills, mud, deep snow).  Recall that a Double Mover getst double the listed rate.  Rates are listed in inches on the vehicle detail sheets.

Armored Vehicles

Direct Fire (Tank and Anti-Tank) - Roll 1d20 per shooter, and see if they roll below the "To Hit" number.  The basic number to hit is an 11 (or less).  Modifiers to that basic number are here:

Situation . . .
+3 Consecutive Fire (same target)
+3 Automatic Weapons (small AA weapons, autocannons)
+2 Targetting a Building
+1 Range Finder (PzV-f, Nashorn, PaK36, PaK43, FlaK 18)

Target Is . . .
-6 Hull Down
-6 Entrenched
-5 In Dense Woods
-3 In Light Woods
-4 In Town
-4 Infantry
-1 Towed Gun
-3 Moving

Shooter Is . . .
+2 Short Range
+0 Medium Range
-4 Long Range
-2 Moving (without gun stabilizer)
-1 Moving (with gun stabilizer)
-2 2nd Shot, Same fire Phase, at a new target


Take the Penetration Value of the weapon firing, based on range (short, medium, long), and subtract the armor value of the facing of the vehicle hit (Front, Side, Rear, or Top).  This gives you a number, which can be indexed on a Penetration Chart, to give the Number to roll, or less, on 1d20 to score a kill.  Otherwise the shot has no effect.  Rather than using the chart, you can calculate it easy enough - just add 5 to the penetration value, before subtracting the armor value.  The resulting number is your target to roll, or less, to score a kill.

Example: A T34, at Medium Range, is firing it's 76L41 gun at the front armor of a PzIVH.  Looking at the weapon chart for the Soviet Gun, we see that at Medium Range, it penetrates 11.  Looking at the PzIVH, we see that the front armor is rated a 7.  So, adding 5 to the gun's penetration value (11+5=16), and then subtracting the armor of the target vehicle (16-7=9) means that we have a chance of a 9 or less on 1d20 to score a kill, if a hit is registered.  In practice, very simple - lookup the range and penetration, and the armor value of the target.

Machine Guns - Vehicle machine guns do not affect armored vehicles in the game.  Larger calibre automatic weapons are listed on the regular vehicle charts.  Normal MGs however, do affect soft targets.  They roll with a strength of '5' on the soft target (i.e. Infantry) table - see below.

Catastrophic Kill
If the number to score a penetration is half or less than the number needed, then it is a catastrophic kill (for instance, in the example above the number needed was a 9 or less, so rolling a 4 or less would be a catastrophic kill).  This means that all crew, passengers, and equipment are also destroyed with the vehicle.  Also, place a burning marker on the vehicle, it now blocks line of sight.

Crew/Passenger Bailout
If a vehicle is killed, but not a catastrophic kill, then there is a chance for bailout by crew and passengers.  Roll 1d6, on a 1 or 2 all personnel are killed, otherwise they bail out.

Vehicle Smoke
Vehicles can (very limited basis) fire smoke rounds.  Pick a target and roll 1d6 for scatter based on range - Short (1,2), Medium (1,2,3), Long (1,2,3,4,5).  If it scatters, the smoke round hits 1 inch away in a randon direction.  It produces a line of sight blocking puffball.
Some vehicles have smoke dischargers - these produce a puffball 1 inch from the model of the vehicle, in the direction the tank is facing.

Spotting (optional)
Spotting rules give a ditance away that a target can be spotted.  It is based on whether the unit being spotted is stationary, in a prepared position (trench or pit), or moving - and also what type of target it is (vehicle, gun, infantry).  This ranges from unlimited range in the open to see a moving vehicle, to only 3 inches to see infantry in the woods or hills in a prepared position.  This is an optional rule, but tends to encourage more play with the terrain and maneuver.  Under these rules, you can spot through smoke, but only up to 4 inches on the other side of the smoke.


Infantry vs. Soft Targets
(that is, other infantry units, and vehicles with a side armor of 2 or less) is handled by looking up the basic strength of the infantry unit firing.  This is for a single counter (the game recommends counters for infantry), representing a single infantry squad (usually 3 squads per platoon).  These squads are rated for the following types:
  • Infantry
  • Armored Infantry
  • Airborne Infantry
  • Armored Cav/Recon
  • Cavalry
  • Heavy Weapons
  • HQ Section
  • Crew

Each type has a strength value for the year and nationalities that employ those types (for instance, in 1941 a Soviet infantry squad has a strength of 4, but in 1943, a Soviet infantry squad has a strength of 6, representing better weapons/training/leadership).

Each basic type has an associated range, within which it can engage other Infantry.  For instance, basic Infantry has a range of 12 inches, but Cavalry only has a range of 8 inches.

Infantry vs. Infantry fighting - when an Infantry squad attacks another, there is a target number based on the terrain the target is in (the only modifier to this number, is if the target is moving, this number is increased by 1):
  • Open - 10 or less
  • Soft Cover - 8 or less
  • Hard Cover - 7 or less
  • Supressed - 6 or less
  • Entrenched - 5 or less

There is an infantry chart, so your actual number you roll is cross indexed with your squad's strength, to see if you either Supress or Kill the enemy.  In practice, it works very simple.

Melee Combat - Infantry ending in contact with enemy counters will fight melee.  Fights are determined by finding all the attacking (moving) counters that are touching a single defender counter.  Roll 1d6 per counter involved.  Any attacker that is less than a defender's number is destroyed.  Any defender that is less than an attacker is destroyed.  Ties are resolved as both destroyed.  So if multiple attackers go against one defender, the defender can beat all of them by rolling the highest number, otherwise as above.

Melee modifiers (to the d6 rolled) are these:
+1 Charging
+1 Cavalry
+1 Airborne
+1 SS
+1 Marines
-1 Crew
-1 HQ Section
-1 Entrenched
-1 Routing

Infantry Anti-Tank Weapons - A variety of anti-tank weapons can be employed by Infantry squads.  These include Recoil-less Rifles, Handheld Anti-Tank Rockets (Bazooka, PIAT, etc), Anti-Tank Rifles, and the experimental German X-7 Wire-guided Missile (was it ever really used?).  Each of these weapons has range (short/medium/long) and vehicle penetration rules.

Infantry Close Assault - Infantry attacking vehicles use the Close Assault rules.  An infantry squad that closes to contact with an enemy vehicle must pass a Morale test.  If it passes, it rolls 2d6 on the close assault table.  The variables on the table are whether or not the vehicle is closed top, and the terrain (open, wooded, urban).  A range on the 2d6 roll determines if the vehicle is killed.  That is the only result.

Other Rules

Rules are given for artillery pieces on the table to engage in Direct Fire against armor units (ranges and penetration are given for different size guns).  Indirect fire rules are given - how long it takes for an artillery mission to arrive, what types of missions you can call (Point, Rolling Barrage, Creeping Barrage, Final Protective Fire), and what type of pattern it falls in (point/tight, or area/loose).  Rules for scatter of shot from the aiming point are given.    Finally, rules for HE rounds vs. infantry and soft targets (those with a side armor of 2 or less) are given.  Infantry are subjected to a chart much like small arms fire.  Vehicles are two, but hard vehicle targets (with a side armor over 2) are only affected very rarely (roll of a 10 exactly, on a 20 sided dice, and only for certain types of artillery).  In the case of artillery (HE rounds) there are column shifts to the left for being in certain terrain (entrenched infantry, woods, town, suppressed target, woods, etc).

Combat Engineers
Rules are given for combat engineers (placing and dealing with obstacles, such as abati, barbed wire, craters, dragon's teeth, tank ditches, and mine fields).  A discussion of, and rules on, different types of mines is present.

Rules are given for aircraft, with a view towards permitting supporting air actions that present ground support.  Detailed dog fighting rules are not present.

And that's it for the rules.  More on the Vehicle and Weapon statistics, in the next article.

So, what do I think of Jagdpanzer?  It is a game of it's time, but I do like how it abstracts some vehicle info (penetration and armor), and also how it keeps armor values to a minimum (averaging turret and hull, so that an armored vehicles has four armor values - front, side, rear, and top).  It plays fast.  The morale rules are playable, and give good results.

My only regret - and this is largely from memory (I will have to check the rulebook again) is that there is no mechanism for recovering from Suppression (that I recall). It might have been a preferred house rule, but I seem to remember that we would use either a Command Control roll or a Morale Test to recover from Suppression (I can't find where in the rulebook it discusses this...

Update! After talking with the author, I confirmed that it is a Morale Test that removes a Suppression result.

Overall, and in light of how well the many different branches of WW2 combined arms land warfare is - these are really great rules.  A nice high resolution (low aggregation) wargame simulating WW2 ground combat, and it covers everything in elegant ways, that is still fun and easy to play.

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