Monday, March 17, 2014

World War Risus : Some Thoughts and Pictures

World War Risus had its first real outing yesterday.

My prior games have all been played with top-down flats on my desk with rather uninteresting meeting encounters, simply to test mechanics; this time, i broke out the toy soldiers and an honest to goodness scenario. Using the table layout from this Tabletop Teaser from 1978, I decided that my objective was to capture the bridge, not blow it up, which meant dislodging the opposition, with 8 turns to do it.

I played on my bed and surprisingly, Pumpkin was OK with this.
At first my intention was to play a fast game using Featherstone's simple WWII rules from his War Games: Battles and Manoeuvres with Model Soldiers, but it seemed like I should give my own rules a chance in a real game.

As I saw the scenario, I had a weak company consisting of a company HQ, two platoons, a heavy weapons section (bazooka) and an MMG section. The enemy would have 1 AFV, 1 scout vehicle w/MG and 1 weak company consisting of 1 company HQ, 1 Wehrmacht rifle platoon and 1 SS rifle platoon

All but the company HQs and the SS platoon were rated 3 dice for all three cliches. The SS platoon had a CE of 4 and a Morale of 4, while the HQs were 4 all the way across.

According to my World War Risus rules, each platoon should have had a separate HQ, and each section should have maneuvered individually. 

However, perhaps because I was in Featherstone mode when I set everything up, I continued to think of the platoons as single maneuver elements of 5 figures each, rather than as 3 elements + HQ element. 

This sped up the game a bit because it eliminated 3 sets of Leadership rolls per platoon (1 for the HQ and 1 for each section, normally), as well as movement and individual actions for 3 elements per platoon. It also felt and looked "right" to me.

I just really like my trees.
What I realized, after I was done playing, is that, mechanically, for those following along at home, I was basically playing a World War Risus platoon HQ with 2 sections, with 2 company support sections.

A brutal melee handled very close to standard Risus, meaning either side could lose a point of CE each round.
But the more I think about it, the more I realize, I'm not sure it matters either way. They could have been squads, but I thought of them as platoons without individual platoon leaders represented, but they could have been two companies of a battalion for that matter. Just like Featherstone and other old school rules (as I mentioned here).

I've thought about this and it seems to me that just treating them as units, without worry to organizational level, makes it feel more game-like. It's one of the things about G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T. that I like - that sliding-scale zoom (I keep meaning to play a WWII version of G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T., note to self).

This was also the first outing where I worried about movement distances but that was easily resolved using Featherstone's simple WWII rules.

Armor rules, which I had barely thought about yet, were quickly determined using THW's Nuts! 2.0. With the values there for front, back and side armor, I determined that a bazooka was +1 die weapon against armored vehicle, while a StuG got +3 defense dice for attacks from the front, +2 dice on the side, and +1 die for the rear. 

The scout car would get +1 defense die because I assumed it was moving quickly unless otherwise noted and that a rifle platoon could attack a scout car by targeting the occupants, whereas the bazooka section could target the car itself or the occupants.

One of several attempts by the bazooka section to knock out the StuG. Only one hit made it through, although it did reduce the effectiveness of the StuG a bit.
The StuG also got +2 dice for its gun when attacking (MMG or main gun wasn't relevant to me). 

At this point, I thought, "Hey, I could still win this."
I have no idea why I thought that; that LMG team is part of an SS unit firing safely from cover in the village (the rest of the figures fit in the house).

Using the cliches as I have for infantry, it means it takes 3 hits to knock out an AFV, but I  kind of like that (at this scale, assuming a company battle, it's probably a troop of tanks). Still, I may look into the Lucky Shot rule in the Risus Companion (I think it's in there) just to make single shot knockouts a possibility.

After the StuG unit eliminated the last of my remaining rifle unit on turn 8, the company commander ordered the bazooka section to fall back. The day was lost.


  1. One of the first sets of rules I played was Operation Warboard by Gavin Lyall. His platoons were 10-12 guys. And a more recent set of WWII rules, Rapid Fire has companies of 8-10 guys or so. So you are not alone in doing it that way.

    There is a term in miniature wargaming--bathtubbing* . It was either coined or popularized by game designer Frank Chadwick when he put out a Russian Campaign supplement for Command Decision, I believe. Recognizing that no one could really game on the monstrous level of the Eastern Front, he eliminated certain levels of command and shrank units sizes to produce something manageable (but still huge).

    I do think a lucky shot rule is needed. Or a rule to drive off the tanks-people do like to survive. I read an account of two Finnish officers driving off a Russian tank because one kept shooting at the tank with his pistol and the crew lost sight of the other one and got panicked about what he was up to. (Morale Check!)

    I have to say, I'm not sure how a bazooka targets just the occupants of a scout car, unless you mean the team using it's rifles/carbines/SMG to do so.

    1. Hi Stu Rat,

      Thanks for the comment! It definitely made me feel more confident in my approach to the size of the platoons/companies.

      I've been thinking about picking up the John Curry reprint of Operation Warboard, and the PDF of Rapid Fire has been on my WargameVault wishlist for awhile. Do you recommend one over the other?

      For the lucky shot, the official Risus Companion rule isn't exactly what I pictured, but it might work, with some modification. It's definitely the rule to explore before the next time I play.

      As for the bazooka vs. scout car, i phrased that badly due to muddled thinking on my part. Combat is supposed to be abstract, so targeting occupants vs. vehicle doesn't make sense in that light; the bazooka team fires on the scout car using whichever method makes sense to them while the rifle squad does the same - i'm supposed to be playing the company and platoon HQs, not micromanaging individual fire teams. Unfortunately, I'm mostly familiar with the latter types of games, so it's taking me a bit of effort to get out of that mindset!

    2. The two works are different. Rapid Fire is a pure ruleset for battalion/brigade level actions.
      But Operation Warboard is, to my thinking, the ideal way of writing a rulebook. It starts with a little battle report to hook you. Covers the background of wargaming. Breaks down what infantry and armor were all about in WW2. There's a chapter on creating a battlefield and another on playing a wargame. Finally, a larger battle report 'Gold' beach on D-day. At the back of the book are his rules. Ordered and numbered, with an orange border (not sure if the reprint has that) so you know you are in the rules section. But in the middle of the book is the best part. The notes for the rules. They are numbered for the rule they reference and further explain why a rule is the way it is, or how to implement it, or other important stuff. This allows the actual rules to be clear and concise. The rules do use templates for MG and artillery fire that you would need to make yourself (much like Charles Grant's Wargame).
      Now, you need to bear in mind this is a introduction to wargaming as much as it is a rules set. I first read it when I was ten (along with Featherstone, Grant and Wells--how amazing was my local public library in the 70s?) so it was amazingly helpful to me--you, however, might not be learning anything new.

      Rapid Fire might be a better set of rules and has tons of inspiring photos of minis in action. But I don't know how helpful it would be if you aren't planning on adopting the whole set.

      One thing I can say definitely is that I still have a copy of Operation Warboard, but I sold of my copy of Rapid Fire during one of the "purges".

      But, honestly, you're going to buy both, eventually...aren't you?

    3. I could try to deny it, but that would be silly. I'm a wargamer, and this is my lot in life! Still, based on your description of Operation Warboard, which echoes similar sentiments I've found elsewhere online, and that you kept it over Rapid Fire, I'll probably start there.

  2. Hi,

    What changes did you make to RISUS? Will you be offering a copy of what you came up with when you are happy with it?

    Best regards,


    1. Hi Chris,

      I think the most obvious changes are: the counting of successes rather than adding pips to speed combat, bonus dice for defense and for better weapons, the elimination of any fixed build amount, the limiting to three cliches (and having standardized boring names for those times when i just want to get on with the game: Combat Effectiveness, Leadership, Morale). The idea for the command structure is something of a variation on the Risus team attack mechanism.

      Once I have them to my liking - at least for a little while, as I tend to be a constant rules tinkerer - I'll post them on my downloads page here.