February 22, 2016 by crew
Welcome, Beasts of War, to round three of our foray into the fiery world of Force-on-Force, the modern warfare miniature rules system by Ambush Alley Games and Osprey Publishing. We hope these articles, presented by community members @unclejimmy and @oriskany, will shed some light on this system and this genre of gaming.
So far we’ve overviewed the game system in Part One, then pried into some greater detail on Morale & Irregular Forces in Part Two. For now, however, it’s time to once again head out on a “sweep and clear” of this amazing system, learning about how scenarios are designed and played, and how casualties work in Force-on-Force.
Force-on-Force is a scenario-driven game. There are no “point values” or other artificial mechanics to exploit to build unrealistically “perfect” armies. Like the game’s name suggests, these scenarios pit “force against force.” There are plenty of sample scenarios in the rulebook and many more in the additional supporting books.
Victory conditions are also determined by the scenario, which is where a lot of the asymmetry discussed in Part Two comes in. High-tech, expensive military units may have to control a whole district, suffer no casualties, and kill no civilians…where insurgents only have to set off an IED or ambush a patrol and inflict a handful of casualties.
Force-on-Force isn’t a game that wastes your time. At the outset, enemy units will probably be deployed on the table, a sobering fact given enemy units can declare “reactions” from the moment your units start to activate. If different types of modern firefights have anything in common, it’s that they are very, very fast.
Each scenario contains a description of how the table is to be set up. All major features will be marked. The size of the table is likely to be smaller than you are used to. For his games, unclejimmy finds that a 40″x40″ board works well for most 20mm games. For games played in 15mm, Force-on-Force suggests that tables as small as 2′x2′ or 2′x3′ can work easily.
The scenario will also describe the use of “Fog of War” cards (if they are being used). The scenario will also indicate how many units each side has, their composition, and where they’ll be placed on the table. If any special rules apply to any unit(s) or to the game then they will be explained here.
In most games, all units will be set up on the table at the beginning of the game. Some may even already be in contact, which is unusual in wargames. Other units may be “hidden,” while still others will be staged off the table to come on the board during the course of play.
One more thing that may need to be designated now are “Hot Spots.” These are points designated on the game board where reinforcements may appear, particularly for irregular or insurgent units. This may strike some veteran wargamers as odd, almost as if enemy insurgents are appearing from “spawn points” in a video game.
Of course, this isn’t quite true. These insurgents aren’t appearing from thin air, they are simply applying local knowledge. They know all the short-cuts, drainage ditches, jungle trails, and holes in the walls. This gives their opponents the eerie feeling that the enemy can a appear from almost anywhere.
Note that “Hot Spots” can be neutralized by enemy forces (throwing grenades down spider holes or fragging the entrance to a jungle tunnel complex). And some scenarios do not use them at all. They’re just one more scenario option Force-on-Force uses to make the game more asymmetrical, like the modern wars the game seeks to simulate.
War is a full-contact sport, played for keeps. Sooner or later (probably sooner) people are going to be hurt…badly. Yet another way in which Force-on-Force stands apart from other games is how casualties are handled. Figures aren’t simply removed from the table. Casualties have a major impact on the game beyond their simple absence.
If you watch any documentary about modern combat units or have read any accounts of combat actions then you will be familiar with the expression, “nobody gets left behind.” With most combat units this also applies to the dead. Force-on-Force has an elegant set of mechanics to this into account.
You may be forced to halt that perfect assault because of an ill-timed injury. You might want that squad to keep going, but they’re more concerned about their comrade than your “objective.” Nothing complicated, these may be plastic minis on the table but they are meant to represent real flesh-and-blood soldiers on the modern battlefield.
The simple truth is that wounded men must be helped along. Sometimes civilians must be safeguarded or escorted. Captured prisoners must be taken in tow, especially if he or she has critical intel. Even the dead must be carried, soldiers are very serious about making sure a fallen brother-in-arms gets home to his family…no matter what.
In game mechanics, such personnel are called “dependants” on a unit. If a unit has a casualty or dependent, it must make a Troop Quality check (see Part One) in order to move faster than “tactical speed.” With a casualty in the unit it is best to take it easy.
A unit can hand over a casualty to trained medics, or one of them can escort a prisoner or civilians to a safe point. This would allow the unit to ignore taking the TQ check, but it also means they are now another man down.
In Force-on-Force, there are also different levels are wounds. “Hits” are not simply counted to see how many figures are removed from play. There are first aid checks that may redeem personnel who have been hit. It also bears noting that slightly wounded men, while they still slow down the unit, can also still add to the unit’s firepower.
Once a unit sustains casualties, it’s sometimes important to know exactly who in the unit has been hit. In most modern combat units everyone is cross-trained, if the Sergeant is hit then the Corporal takes command. However, it is important to know who got injured if your squad contains a specialist, such as a Medic or TAC.
This can be even more important in irregular forces because they are (in general) poorly trained and need constant supervision. If an irregular militant is carrying a medium machine-gun then it is likely that nobody else in that squad is familiar with it. Thus, that squad might lose some of its firepower.
Tracking casualties among the leaders of irregular units is also important because of the general frailty of their command structure (or lack thereof). Should the leader be removed the squad needs to roll a troop quality check to see if it can react. If it fails it can do nothing for the rest of the turn.
If an irregular casualty is not a leader, however, or carrying a special weapon, typically the figure is just removed from the squad. These wounded insurgents are spirited away by locals, usually unseen by enemy forces. After many modern firefights, it is not unusual to find no enemy bodies at the scene.
However, this is not the case for regular troops that are trained to keep injured comrades safe.
We hope this article has stimulated further thoughts, interest, or discussion on Force-on-Force, or modern wargaming in general. In our last article next week, we’ll briefly discuss vehicles in the game, as well as taking a look at some of the supporting books and materials that have been published for Force-on-Force.
In the meantime, please comment below with questions, comments, or suggestions. Best of all, if you’ve ever tried Force-on-Force, or a similar moderns wargame, tell us about your experience!
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"Force-on-Force isn’t a game that wastes your time. At the outset, enemy units will probably be deployed on the table, a sobering fact given enemy units can declare “reactions” from the moment your units start to activate..."
"If you watch any documentary about modern combat units or have read any accounts of combat actions then you will be familiar with the expression, "nobody gets left behind"..."