Modern Wargaming With “Force-On-Force” Part One – Introduction

February 8, 2016 by crew

This article series is presented as a collaborative work by Beasts of War community members @unclejimmy and @oriskany. The notion for these articles came from another series recently presented by oriskany on the recent conflict in the Ukraine, which used the ‘Force-on-Force’ system by Ambush Alley Games and Osprey Publishing.

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Oriskany’s articles, however, didn’t go very deep into an explanation of the rules or the mechanics of the game. So, this new article series will examine the “nuts and bolts” of Force-on-Force in more detail. We hope this will be useful if you’ve never heard of Force-on-Force, or are thinking of giving it a try.

Force-On-Force – An Overview

Force-on-Force is a game designed to simulate small-scale combat actions between modern forces. This series isn’t intended as a full guide to playing a complete full game – just a look at how some of the mechanics work and a summary of what the game is all about.

The rules describe two types of engagement, Kinetic and Asymmetric. “Kinetic Warfare” generally describes your traditional battle situation. Two opposing forces, usually professional soldiers in full-scale standing armies, fight it out over an objective or simply to eliminate one another from the board.

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An Asymmetric engagement, in contrast, is the type of warfare used in counterinsurgency, the smouldering conflicts we see so often in the news. Snipers, patrolling, and artillery exchanges are punctuated by ambushes and firefights, usually pitting government troops against some sort of militia, insurgency, or terrorist network.

In their January 2009 Counterinsurgency Guide, the US State Department defined counterinsurgency (sometimes referred to as COIN) as: “comprehensive civilian and military efforts taken to simultaneously defeat and contain insurgency and address its root causes.”

To capture and replicate the characteristics of both Kinetic and Asymmetrical combat, “Force-on-Force” rules use a straightforward and easy-to-learn system (presented in a stellar rulebook) to produce a fast-paced and colourful ‘combat’ experience.

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At first glance, however, new players might be confused since Force-on-Force “sounds” very different to many other skirmish games. Once you begin playing, you’ll find you can play detailed, action-packed, and cinematic scenarios without having to refer back to complex of cumbersome rules or even having to pick-up the rules.

Force-on-Force is not a game designed for huge engagements. It is best played with a few units per side and maybe one or two vehicles. That is not to say with experience you could not play larger games, but it has been designed with this sized game in mind.

Troop Quality

In Force-on-Force, troops are rated for their training, confidence, and level of supply. This is expressed, in game terms, by a Troop Quality (TQ) die. This scale starts with a d6, which would represent untrained or poorly trained militia or rebel units. A unit represented by a d8 would be well trained or experienced troops.

Units made from veteran troops, with extensive combat experience, would use a d10. Finally, d12s would be used if you field units with the training and experience of the SAS. This last type should be very rare in games, as they can easily unbalance a game if not used sparingly.

As an example, this is the entry for the modern British army.

British Army

  • Initiative Level: D8 to D10
  • Confidence Level: Confident to High
  • Supply Level: Normal to Abundant
  • Body Armour: 1d
  • Troop Quality/Morale: d8 to d10/d8 to d12

Force-on-Force takes place using a series of actions and reactions. This is not a static game, during each turn everybody does something. As one side makes actions with their forces, the other side can react to anything it can see or by which it is affected.

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A unit’s actions are self-explanatory: Move, Fire, Request Air Support or Hide. There are more, but these are just beginning examples. There are also reactions to these that opposing players can take, during the first player’s turn as he is making his initial actions.

Movement is also straightforward. There is “tactical” or “rapid” movement, allowing a trooper to move 6″, or 12″ if he wants to take the risk. Over rough, for example, troops using Rapid Movement have to roll a TQ dice. Get a “1” and your foot has found that rabbit hole, you are now a potential casualty.

Open Fire!

Okay, let’s address what most people want to know about a game right away – how does combat work? Well, in Force-on-Force there are no massive tables of weapons. Your training, confidence and supplies are what dictate your fighting strength … it’s less about the weapon, than the capabilities of the man BEHIND the weapon.

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Once the attacking player has calculated his firepower (described in the caption above), the defender works out his defence. Count the number of figures in the unit or the number of firepower dice of the opponent, whichever is LESS. That’s your basic defence, which can be modified by cover or body armour.

At this point dice are rolled by both sides and 4+ results are compared. The defender matches his dice to those of the attacker, he must equal or better the score of any dice. Any attacking dice that remain that cannot be equalled or beat will cause one casualty.

A further level of detail can be added with “Fog of War” cards. Whenever you make a reaction test and roll a ’1′ you draw a card. Sometimes the result will be beneficial, perhaps a passing Cobra makes a strafing run for you, or you find a really well built wall to hide behind.

However, Fog of War cards can also benefit the enemy. You might have triggered a booby trap or just heard some bad news over the net and it lowers morale. Strictly optional, these cards are free to download from the Ambush Alley website.

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In the image above, we show an example of how fire and reactions work. Clearly there will be cases when some units wind up shooting multiple times in the same turn. This is intentional, since in modern warfare, hard pressed units can lay down ridiculous amounts of lead. However, there are limitations to this.

All units in Force-on-Force are either “Regular” or “Irregular.” Irregular units may only participate in one round of fire they have initiated by either action of reaction. Irregular units may only be activated or react once per turn.

Regular units may react multiple times, but each time they do so lose one point (dice) of firepower. Eventually they will no longer be able to fire back as they run out of firepower dice. Then again, in a highly trained unit even a single d10 or d12 can roll a result that a d6 or d8 militia can never match. This is that one perfectly-placed sniper round …

Show Of Force

What about the fancy stuff, like calling in an airstrike, heliborne assault, and “fast-roping” infantry? Well, it’s all there, but again the rules are elegant and nuanced, and allow for application of more “subtle” modern tactics. One example is the “Show of Force.”

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Modern aircraft (fighter jets and helicopter gunships) can be used to seriously damage the morale of non-regular troops, even without releasing ordinance. When combat aircraft fly low and loud over Irregular troops, it can rattle their nerves to the point where all irregulars must roll an immediate morale check at a -1 die roll modifier.

Results are applied immediately. This tactic is brilliant for clearing insurgents, without actually firing a shot. This is especially useful since civilians are often in the crossfire, or your superiors might be trying to contain the conflict’s level of violence. Note that this tactic also “ignores” line of sight, because raw fear finds you …wherever you are.

Debriefing

Of course, all this is only the beginning of what Force-on-Force has to offer. Fully exploring a wargame system that can encompass virtually any conflict from 1945 to the present day is going to take more than one article. Post comments or questions below, and let us know what you think so far.

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Better yet, get some friends together, break out some miniatures, and try this game yourself! Saddle up, people! And lock n’ load!

James Johnson & Darren Oliver

If you would like to write an article for Beasts of War please contact us at ben@beastsofwar.com to find out more!

"The rules describe two types of engagement, Kinetic and Asymmetric..."

"…it’s less about the weapon, than the capabilities of the man BEHIND the weapon"