Issue: 26

Command, Control & Manoeuvre on the 21st Century Tactical Battlefield
by Mark Bevis

It is obvious from current military developments that some modern armies are becoming smaller whilst their firepower and tactical awareness are increasing. Other armies are almost WWI in style, despite their numerous T-55 tanks and AK47's. The Gulf War was a stunning example of extremes in this difference and I expect this divergence of styles to continue into the future. No doubt combined arms battles of the next century will be higher tech versions of the Gulf war, Somalia and the Balkans, as will many fictional battles currently played by many SF gamers.

This article develops a command system for SF/Near Future "Tank" battles in 1/300th scale, that can be added to any existing combat rules.

Operating Units:

The type of army being fielded will determine its type of Operating Unit.

  1. The High Tech Style Army: as exemplified by current NATO armies, where nearly all troops seem to be "special forces", and are equipped with secure radios, data-link to real-time imagery, computer widgets, laser rangers, Global Positioning System, SATCOM, thermal imaging etc, etc, right down to platoon level in many cases. Kevlar suits and Chobham armour abound, and training is of a good standard. By 2130AD such armies will have the situational awareness currently only enjoyed by wargamers looking down on a wargames table, and a platoon will have the firepower now envied by whole companies. Such forces, small in number, but highly mobile and fighting in three dimensions day and night are very expensive and designed to keep their casualties to a minimum.

  2. The Low-Tech Style Army: sort of HOTT in tanks. Usually large numbers of poorly trained infantry heavy units and pure tank battalions. Sometimes highly motivated by religion, drugs, ignorance or a charismatic leader, sometimes coerced (Gulf War Iraqis for example), their arms are usually at lest a generation behind that currently used by high tech armies. Their main weakness is poor grade HQ staff and untrained and/or politicised officers.

  3. The Irregular Style Army: an awkward category to represent well on the tabletop, these are variable numbers of poorly equipped guerrilla forces operating in rough terrain (eg.. Serbs, Kurds, VC) that they are familiar with. Command and control equipment is poor or non-existant, and weapons are a mix of new and ancient (eg.. bows and spears are still in use in Asia in the 1990's). For combat I suggest giving irregulars a differing move sequence to regular forces, eg.. they fire when regulars move and move when the irregulars fire.

It is likely that even alien armies will fit into the above categories if they are using similar technology equipment or worse.

The Operating Unit for High Tech Armies is the platoon, whilst for all others it is the company.


For the combat system you use there may be order chits for issuing to units. If not, produce many of the following:

Order Chit Explanation
M X3 Triple Move
M X2 Double Move
M Normal Move
1/2 M Half Move - unit moves from zero to half a move
CA Close Assault - overrun attack on enemy unit
RET Retire one move
ROUT Unit goes into voluntary retreat, full speed away from enemy
LEFT M Turn left from 45° to 135° roughly
RIGHT M Turn right from 45° to 135° roughly
FM Formation change - load/unload troops or droids/drones, set up to fire indirect weapons, line to road column etc
RAD Radio - request indirect fire mission or air strike
FF Fast Fire - units equipped with autoloader/rapid fire fire & forget system, to fire twice if not moving
FIRE For UNPROFOR type third party peacekeepers only, they require an order chit to return fire
ENG Engineer - carry out an engineering operation

CA, RET, ROUT, LEFT M, RIGHT M, FM, RAD and FIRE orders can be issued in conjunction with movement type order.


These examples of the order system in operation are set in the Russo-Japanese War of 2130.

  1. A damaged platoon of three Japanese hover tanks are ordered to double move (M X2) to the left flank (LEFT M), request indirect MLR support (RAD) and close assault a dug in Siberian infantry company (CA).

  2. A Chinese UNPROFOR Peacekeeping Squadron of eight Mil-24 copy's, wishes to fly NOE to an OP (1/2 M), unload an infantry company (FM) and return fire on an obstinate Russian Sa-18 team (FIRE) on the Mongolian border.

  3. A battered Mongolian infantry company equipped with the latest Japanese multi-barrel hand held fire & forget top attack hyper-velocity missile lunchers wishes to unleash all the rounds on a fast approaching Russian T-90 tank battalion (FF). In the previous move they had no order chits (which means they stay put and fire few missiles).

Once all order chits are placed face down by both sides (if using simultaneous movement), roll a D10 for each Operating Unit and consult the appropriate Friction Table, applying modifiers.


High Tech Force Friction Table:

D10 Score Result
Modifiers to D10 Roll
- 1 if poorly trained
+1 if elite, very high morale
- 1 per squad/AFV lost in platoon
- 1 if CHQ lost
- 2 if Bttn HQ lost
- 2 if under EMP effect
+2 if not under effective fire
0 or less Retreat at Full Speed
1 - 2 Fall back one full move
3 - 4 Halt in confusion
5 1/2 Move, no order change
6 1/2 Move, obey orders
7+ Obey orders
11+ Fanatics only - increase movement one level, add CA order

Low Tech Force Friction Table:

D10 Score Result
Modifiers to D10 Roll
- 1 if badly trained
- 1 if poor morale
+1 if good morale
- 1 per platoon equivalent lost
- 1 if CHQ lost
- 2 if Bttn HQ lost
+2 if not under effective fire
+1 if charismatic leader attached
- 1 if enemy using lots of ECM
0 or less Retreat at Full Speed
1 Fall back one full move
2 - 3 Halt in confusion
4 1/2 Move, no order change
5 - 6 1/2 Move, obey orders
7+ Obey orders
11+ Fanatics only - increase movement one level, add CA order

Irregular Tech Force Friction Table:

D10 Score Result
Modifiers to D10 Roll
- 1 if poorly motivated
+1 if fanatics
- 1 per 2 squads/AFV lost
- 1 if CHQ lost
- 2 if Bttn HQ lost
+2 if not under fire
1 or less Retreat at Full Speed
2 - 3 Fall back one full move
4 - 5 Halt in confusion
6 1/2 Move, no order change
7 1/2 Move, obey orders
8 - 9 Obey orders
10 Increase existing move order one level
11+ Fanatics only: change orders to M X3, CA

Radio order chits are diced for seperatly in your indirect artillery/aircraft phases. Roll a D10, 1 - 2 fails if high-tech, 1 - 3 fails of low-tech and 1 - 5 fails if irregular. Any other result means the requested battery receives the message and fires.

The result "1/2 Move" means the orders are obeyed, but any movement is at half rate.

"No Order Change" can be lethal: this means the new orders have not got through and the unit obeys the previous move's order!

As each Operating Unit is diced for, its chits are turned face up and the unit is moved (or whatever) before going onto the next unit. The upturned chits are kept with the unit until next turn at least. Any order chits not obeyed are discarded immediately.

Using the earlier examples:

  1. The Jap hover tanks roll a 7, deduct -1 for one tank lost, +1 for high morale = 7, which is obey orders. So they wheel about 60°, whizz 120cm diagonally down the table ans assault the Siberians (if they have reached). The RAD chit is diced for, a 9 indicating that the requested MLRS battery fires...

  2. The Chinese gunships roll 4, deduct -1 for poor morale, - 1 heavy Japanese ECM, giving a result of 2, which is halt in confusion. Ooops! The helos hover indecisively, nor do they have permission to open fire.

  3. The Mongolians roll a 9, deduct -1 for one platoon already lost, -1 CHQ dead and -1 poorly trained, resulting in a 6, a normal move, no order change. The FF chit is discarded and they obey last moves orders to sit tight and fire normally.

A 20th Century version of these rules appeared in The Journal 20 and the reason for the (radical to some?) triple move and double move orders came from a lack of movement that had occurred in previous WWII games. The potential for rapid moves is more relevant to SF battles and experience shows that they speed up games considerably.

Please consider this system as flexible. You can devise your own order chits to fit the rules used, and the Friction Tables can be adjusted with D10 modifiers for national characteristics or attached leaders. Even the bandings on the results table can be adjusted or new results added, depending on the particular tactics (or lack of) of your alien tank force. I would be interested to see, via the pages of Ragnarok, what gamers think of these rules and if any modifications have been tried out.

I must credit SOTCW member Stuart Harrison, who started this idea of using a Fire and Fury style Friction Table for modern wargames in The Journal 17.