BCT 2.0 Beta Testing

Battle rages between mechanized forces somewhere in Central Germany....

It has been awhile, but I was recently inspired to do some more work on my Brigade Combat Team modern rules set.  I have built up nearly a divisions worth of Soviet Armor and two NATO brigades to face them, so it seems necessary to let them get out for a stretch from time to time.  I originally set this game up on my Razyn 1809 board last August, and then promptly closed the lid on the game table and left it shut until last month.  My son's early Spring Break left him vulnerable to being drug into such ventures so he was rapidly dragooned into playing the US Task Force commander.

In the first playtest, I focused on developing the basic combat mechanic and recon rules.  For this battle I wanted to try incorporate infantry combat as well as some different Artillery mechanics.  The overall goal here remains to capture the operational feel of the time period without getting bogged down trying to parse out the technical minutiae.  I am interested in modelling near-peer level engagements in the 1980's at the battalion and above level.  One stand represents an Infantry/Armor platoon or Scout Section.  Artillery is abstracted along with Electronic Warfare.  I will bring up the rules as they seem relevant for those interested.  Otherwise here is the first part of the battle.

Opposing Forces 

US Force

  • US Infantry Battalion (M113) with Mortar Platoon (1 die) and Air defense support (1 die), Cohesion 2.
    • 6 stands (2 co) of Mech Infantry (M113)
    • 3 Stands (1 co) of M901 ITV (ATGM carriers)
    • 3 stands (1 co) of M60A3 (attached from other BN)
    • 2 Scout stands (1 plt) with M113 and ITV
  • US Armor Battalion (M60A3) with Mortar Platoon (1 die) and Air defense support (1 die), Cohesion 2.
    • 9 Stands (3 co) of M60A3
    • 3 Stands (1 co) of Mech Infantry (M113) (attached from other BN)
    • 2 Scout stands (1 plt) with M113 and Dragon ATGM)
  • Armored Cavalry Troop with 2 M1 and 4 M3 Recon stands
  •  3 SP FA Batteries (3 tokens) with DPICM, HE, Smoke.  BN has Priority of fire (+2)
  • 1 SP M110 8" gun Battery tasked to counter battery fire.  (2 Dice)
  • 4 CAS missions (A-10); AR BN has Priority of fire (+2)
  • US has Air Superiority (+1 to friendly CAS roll, -2 to EN CAS roll)

USSR Force
  • Regimental HQ with Air Defense (2 dice),  Cohesion 3
  • Regimental Recon company with BRM/BRDM (2 stands)
  • Regimental AT Company with BRDM-3 (3 stands)
  • Regimental EN Company with 2 Bridging Units (2 stands) 
  • Motor Rifle Battalion #1 (BMP-2) with Mortar Platoon (2 dice) and Air defense support (1 die), Cohesion 2.
    • 9 Stands (3 co) of mechanized infantry (BMP-2) 
    • 3 Stands ( 1co) T-64
    • 1 stand CSOP/CRP
  • Motor Rifle Battalion #2 (BMP-2) with Mortar Platoon (2 dice) and Air defense support (1 die)Cohesion 2.
    • 9 Stands (3 co) of mechanized infantry (BMP-2) 
    • 3 Stands (1 co) T-64
    • 1 stand (1 plt) CSOP/CRP
  • Motor Rifle Battalion #3 (BMP-1) with Mortar Platoon (2 dice) and Air defense support (1 die)Cohesion 2.
    • 9 Stands (3 co) of mechanized infantry (BMP-2) 
    • 3 Stands (1 co)T-64
    • 1 stand (1 plt) CSOP
  • Separate Tank Battalion (T-64) with  Air defense support (1 die),Cohesion 2.
    • 9 stands (3 co) of T-64
  • 5 SP FA Batteries (5 tokens) with HE, Smoke.  Regiment has general support (+1)
  • 1 Rocket Battery  for Counter Artillery (2 dice)
  • 2 CAS Missions (SU-25) Regiment has priority support (+2)

I am working on both a d6 "fist full of dice" version as well as a d10 single roll version.  I asked Mason which one he found more interesting, and he opted to throw as many dice as possible.  This would lead to my early undoing as his rolls tended to generate utter devastation on Soviet forces.

A quick refresher on the basic concept: I used the dice for Halo Ground Battles, ignoring the "skull" result except for special occasions.  This give the following results

D6 Equivalent
Failure/No effect
1 Hit 
2 Hits

In this case you roll a number of dice equal to your AT or AP value (depending on target) plus any additional dice from the modifiers and add up the results.  The defender rolls a number of dice equal to the defensive value and subtracts that from the attacker's roll.  The remainder is applied to the stand:

Points of Damage
  1. Disrupted (Suppressed, white chit): Subtract 1 die from Attack/Defense values.  
  2. Degraded (Neutralized, red chit): Subtract 2 dice from Attack/Defense values.  Model may not maneuver, will only move away to reach nearest improved cover.  
  3. Dispersed (Destroyed)  Model is removed from play.

Modifiers affect the number of dice rolled for each side.  For example the Battalion mortars could target one enemy platoon and give either +1 attack dice (for attacking infantry) or +1 defense dice (smoke to obscure fire).  Field artillery has a similar effect, but targets an entire company.

The Stats

M163/330/2035Stab, TI
M60A343/330/2024Stab, TI
Mech Inf (M113)41/315/1024NVG
M901 ATGM43/135/524ATGM, TI
M3 section52/130/2523ATGM, TI, Recon
AR Scout (M113)41/115/1014ATGM, Recon
IN Scout (M113)41/135/514ATGM, Recon
T-6453/330/3024Stab, ATGM
BRM/BRDM Section61/215/1513Recon
CRP (T-64/BMP)52/230/2013Recon

*A note on stats.  These are still in flux, but I am trying to represent capabilities more than bore size of cannons.  Thus, while a T-64B does have a 125mm main gun with auto loader, it also lacks integrated radio communications with its neighbors, and the M60A3's Thermal Targeting System.  The degree of training between the all volunteer US crew that trained hard at Graffenwohr at the 18 month conscripts crewing the Soviet tank must also be considered. 

The Plan
The overall scenario in the case is a continuation from the last mission.  The lead Soviet Echelon was badly damaged fighting the US Covering force.  This action bought time for the US Division commander to get his forces set to receive the Soviet attac

The US commander decided to go with a forward defense, using his Recon to screen the two possible avenues of approach, and his mixed armored force to defend forward of the river.  The Soviet Commander opted to push his main force along the southern route, with two INF BNs leading with the Tank Battalion in Reserve.  The lone battalion of BMP-1s was tasking with Fixing NATO forces defending the Northern approach.  The Soviet commander elected to reinforce that effort with his ATGM company, just in case he ran into a heavy tank force.  

Pre-Game Air Interdiction
Another new mechanic I wanted to test out was the pre-battle interdiction phase.  There is a tendency in wargames to focus on Close Air Support, and the destructive potential of Indirect Fires.  This tends to ignore the much more prevalent affect of air power and artillery:  The ability to disrupt and degrade forces before they reach the Forward Edge of the Battle Area (FEBA).  I am trying to model modern war at the operational level, so I want these effects as well.

For this battle, I allocated four air-strikes to the NATO player: 2 attack rolls, and 3 disruption rolls.  For the attack rolls he rolled d6 to select a battalion to attack:  1-3 a IN BN, 4-5 AR BN, 6, Regimental Assets.  He then rolled 1 attack die per stand in the affected BN.  Skull results destroyed the stand, and '2' results gave them a disrupted marker.  My managed to roll two fives for this roll and then utterly savaged the separate tank battalion:

The Soviet commander briefly considers his future tree-counting mission in Siberia.)
For the disruption rolls we used the same rule to select three headquarters to disrupt and rolled the attack die. A "1" or "2" result indicated the number of turns they would be delayed coming onto the table.  The end result was a delay on my second BMP-2 unit and the BMP-1 BN.  This would result in the forces entering the table in an echelon formation with a badly battered reserve. 

Things will be rough in the middle. 
Turn Sequence
  1. Movement
  2. Spotting
  3. Supporting Fires
  4. Direct Fires
  5. Cohesion

The Recon Fight

The game starts in the recon phase.  Each side deploys its scout sections and any headquarters onto the table.  The BN elements are not placed on the table until the opposing force successfully locates the unit.  Thus recon elements act to both find the opposing force, but also screen their own force from observation.  

Spotting Table
Roll D6, need 5+ to spot
Spotter is not a scout
Spotter is moving
Target is moving
Target made call for fire last round
Target fired last round
Target within visual range (<30cm or as terrain allows)
Target is concealed
Target is behind scout unit

The Soviet Recon Co and the lead BN CRP probe west along the road, followed by the lead MRBN.  

I modified the artillery rules this time to streamline things.  Each battery is represented by a token.  Players place their tokens on identified or suspected target locations, and then do a call for fire roll

Call For Fire/ CAS
Roll D6, need 5+ for success
Priority of Fire
General Support
Unsupported unit
Consecutive engagement
Brigade air defense

* effects are based on attack dice.  The controlling player rolls the attack dice, if a number is generated, then that number is deducted from the Call for Fire roll.  This seems easier than trying to adjudicate numbers of fire missions and rolling for damaging batteries. 
A US scout section is spotting moving forward and receives some 152mm attention.

The Northern recon elements were quickly dealt with exposing the following forces.  Effective tank fire begins to savage the Battalion.

A flight of A-10s come in to savage the lead company of BMP-1s

The attacking soviet force is revealed.  Note most of the US forward elements have been smoked

Main force battle
US forces identified in their defensive positions.  Soviet artillery continues to hammer away at the tree line. 

The recon battle has now been handed off to the main line.  

The US general observes the steady Soviet advance.

The weight of fire begins to tell on the US Cavalry, even as another flight of A-10s move into strafe the Soviet lead elements. 

Dinner time!

The main force battle was only getting started, when my opponent was saved by the dinner bell.  We retired upstairs for Taco's and board games with Mom.  I do not know when the game will finally complete.  

Closing Thoughts

Having my son involved was an excellent playtest of the rules.  It allowed me to see issues I had glazed over as well as some methods for streamlining the game.  The scouting elements work mostly as intended, but are still a little time consuming for what I want to do.  The overall effect did work out.  The US fire plan did force the Soviets to deploy early and disrupted the synchronization of the attack.  However, we have not had a chance to test the infantry rules as intended.  I am still trying to get the right balance to prevent tanks and IFVs from destroying infantry at range, rather than being forced to dig them out or turn the flank.  More to come, I am sure. 

For those interested in Cold War Gone Hot scenarios, I have found Mike's WWIII 1987 blog to be an exceptionally plausible "what-if" account.  His attention to detail is superb and the obvious scenario potential has been picked up over at the Sound Officer Call blog to incorporate some miniatures rules results into the development process.


  1. Although not a period of any interest to me (from a game standopint, at least), I still found the discussion of the concept and development of the rules itself quite interesting. How old is Mason now?

    1. 12 years now, best not to think too hard about such things... As for the game, it is an interesting venture. Trying to create an operational level game with the right level of abstraction is proving to be a challenge.

  2. This is quite fascinating, Jake. Your knowledge and first hand experience of the 80s Cold War period shines through bringing expert analysis to designing a game which models the period. Well done! A game I could enjoy giving a try.

    1. I hope to have it ready for field testing this year. Still some heavy bugs to fill out. I admit that it is a niche within a niche. Most people interested in the era focus on the technology aspects. I have find the level of detail necessary to start parsing out all of the variables beyond my level of commitment. That or succumb to the allure of all the Gee-Whiz bang-bang.


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