Modern Wargaming With “Force-on-Force” Part Two – Morale & Irregular Troops

February 15, 2016 by crew

Good afternoon, Beasts of War. Once again it’s time to saddle up, lock n’ load, and continue our exploration of Force-on-Force – the modern warfare gaming system by Ambush Alley Games and Osprey Publishing. For those “just in from the world,” you can catch up on what we’ve discussed so far in Part One.

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But for now, the chopper’s waiting. Mount up and keep your eyes open, troop.

Morale – Friend Or Foe?

No matter how tough or well-trained a unit might be, everyone has a point at which they “lose it.” A better trained or experienced force should be more ready, or even used to, being fired at. However, any force losing a fight, under certain conditions, will be forced to withdraw or even run for the hills.

In Force-on-Force, troops take morale checks under different circumstances. These are known as morale checkpoints. These can come when the unit takes casualties, are fired upon by very large weapons, are nearby when an IED (improvised explosive device) goes off, or is subjected to air strike or artillery barrages.

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Force-on-Force also has three “Confidence Levels” for troops. These are High-Confidence, Confident, and Low-Confidence. All soldiers have to make morale checks in the above conditions, but Confident and Low-Confidence troops have to check under additional conditions that do not bother troops of higher confidence.

Interestingly, morale checks are also required when the unit kills or injures a non-combatant. This CAN happen unintentionally in the game, and few things will bring trained soldiers to a breaking point faster than finding out they’ve cut down a civilian or a friendly.

To make a confidence check, each figure in the unit has to roll a TQ (troop quality) dice. As usual, 4+ is a success. Generally speaking, if more figures in the unit succeed in the check rather than fail, the unit stands. Otherwise, the unit is pinned. Multiple pins can cause a unit to fall back to a covered position away from the enemy.

Note that multiple morale checkpoints of different types compel a unit to make multiple morale checks (multiple checkpoints of the same type only count once). This is particularly true of the lower Confidence levels, since they have more checkpoint conditions that compel checks in the first place.

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Also, since troops of different levels roll different sizes of TQ dice (militia roll d6 while elite SAS or Navy SEALs would roll a d12, making that 4+ is much easier for higher quality troops. However, everyone has a breaking point. Even elite Delta Force operators can come apart under the right … or the wrong … circumstances.

Units that fail morale checks are pinned. They stop moving toward the enemy, seek available cover, and suffer penalties to their attack and defence. Units that are pinned twice in the same turn must “Pull Back,” actually retreating away from the enemy to any available cover. They must then “Regroup” on their next turn.

This is the point that training, discipline, and experience play a crucial part in Force-on-Force. The “penalties to attack and defence” mentioned above is what is called a “die shift” (e.g., d8 troops become d6 troops). Note that if d6 troops shift to below d6, they can’t do anything besides hold onto their helmets in a fetal position.

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Assuming they were not reduced below d6 in Troop Quality, pinned units are just restricted in movement, penalized in firepower (especially during subsequent “Reactions” taken that turn), and made temporarily more vulnerable to enemy fire. Units that are pinned become unpinned at the end of their turn.

Units that were compelled to “Pull Back” must spend their next turn “Regrouping.” Regrouping units can shoot back during a “Round of Fire,” but may not initiate a Round of Fire on their own or go on Overwatch (cover other friendly units). Nor can they move until they have completed their Regroup.

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Please note that all these morale rules apply to actual soldiers, troops that have been trained in some way. “Irregular” militants, such as rebels, terrorists, insurgents, or other untrained combatants have a different set of checkpoints and potential morale results. There are even rules for insurgents who use drugs before a battle.

These morale rules really are straightforward. Once you’ve run through it a couple times it becomes second nature, and you can focus on the action rather than the rules of the game.

Insurgents & Irregulars

Many modern wargames seem to focus on regular forces against the classic “insurgent” militia, insurrections, or rebellions. This is called ASYMMETRIC WARFARE, which characterizes the way most conflicts are being fought in the world today. Therefore, Force-on-Force pays special attention to the particulars of asymmetric warfare.

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In asymmetric warfare, one side is made up of trained soldiers, usually well-equipped and backed up by powerful support assets. These are pitted against a force of untrained (but highly motivated and sometimes frighteningly well equipped) irregulars.

What makes this kind of warfare “asymmetric” isn’t just the numbers. Indeed, many times the “government troops” heavily outnumber the irregulars. The differences are in the tactics available to both sides, and what both sides are willing to accept as “victory.” This translates to special rules and victory conditions in a Force-on-Force game.

Admittedly, untrained irregulars have many weaknesses when compared to a formal, trained, official army. However, they also have colourful characteristics that are reflected in the slightly different mechanics used to play them.

At this point, don’t make the mistake in thinking that playing against insurgents is a push-over. Insurgencies have beaten many of the most powerful nations in the world, the list is too long to go into here. Irregular units tend to be highly motivated and you’re always fighting on THEIR home ground.

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Additionally, insurgent forces tend to be very numerous. Well-trained troops might not be concerned about insurgents’ ability to shoot straight, but when there is a lot of them firing at you? Also, they’ll almost always hit first, run away when they choose, be ready to take hideous losses, and have easy victory conditions.

Irregular units do have serious drawbacks, however. For one, they don’t have a flexible command structure. Because they have no formal training or knowledge of battlefield techniques, they require direct command when fighting, leaders that they trust (usually on a personal level).

This leader must be attached to the unit or be within range to issue instructions. With no one shouting commands at them, an irregular unit may only be activated if they can pass a troop quality check (which is usually made on a terrible d6, remember).

Irregular units that are have an attached leader or a leader in range, may be activated just like any other type of unit. However, a “leaderless” irregular has to make the aforementioned TQ check. If they fail they must remain where they are. They can shoot at anyone who shoots at them (who wouldn’t?), but that’s about it.

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At any point during a game, should the entire irregular command be removed, the irregular side’s morale suffers a -1 die shift. If this takes their die below a d6, then the unit becomes combat ineffective and is removed from play. With nobody left to shout at or threaten them, disheartened soldiers drop their weapons and vanish as quickly as they appeared.

We hope this second article only heightens your interest in Force-on-Force, or modern wargaming in general. Please feel free to post questions, comments, or feedback below, and tune in next week when we continue our explorations of this great game system.

James JohnsonDarren Oliver

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"...however, everyone has a breaking point. Even elite Delta Force operators can come apart under the right (or the wrong) circumstances"

"Many modern wargames seem to focus on regular forces against the classic “insurgent” militia, insurrections, or rebellions. This is called ASYMMETRIC WARFARE..."