Friday, June 7, 2024

Abstract Combat with Book 4

My older son wanted to try his hand at running a mercenary unit. He's got a six month contract on Faldor, defending a town as unrest and civil war swirls around them. He's got about a platoon worth of troops and light vehicles.

His PC is the owner of the PMC “Wolfpack Security Corp.”, while an NPC is the field commander. His patron is the King of Pampati. A contingent of Pampatian Gath emigrated to Faldor to find work. The King is concerned about anti-Gath prejudice among the competing factions. Gath are genetically modified humans, standing 2.7 to 3.3 meters tall. Sounds like they could take care of themselves, but they moved there to work, not fight. Wrong place at the wrong time, you might say.

I've run most of his time so far as a set of random encounters as detailed in the Encounters chapter of TTB. A mix of hostiles and friendlies, government and rebels. A week or so back, a scout group from another PMC came snooping around their town. They exchanged shots before the scouts broke contact and retreated. They took one prisoner, who identified the group.

The People's Popular Development Front (PPDF) worked for the government, bolstering its forces. Then the PPDF leadership decided to renege on the contract. They saw an opportunity to establish themselves as a local power.

Last night we played out the next encounter with the PPDF. Three squads rolled into town to do “recon-in-force”.

We've been working from a sketch map of the town,

and I drew up a second hex map. The battle map noted important features like the HQ building and town gates. We both laid out counters for our units. My son's PMC is divided into about a dozen teams and squads. We did not worry about scale of the hexes, or length of turns. This is abstract, to resolve the battle quickly but without 'GM fiat'.

I added on a few simple rules to the abstract battle system in Book 4. Each turn both sides roll 1D and add the leader's Tactics skill. This is the number of counters that can move on a given turn. Each unit that moves can go one hex in any direction. This became an important factor for one side, later on. Neither side had Leadership skill on the board, but a Leader can make a throw to move a unit 2 hexes instead of one. (We'll see another time if that rule works well or not)

In the Avalon Hill game Antietam (part of the Blue & Gray series) the Union side can move only 6 of its 40+ counters per turn. This reflects McClellan's dithering during the actual battle. The movement throw added a variable to the game. It reflects the difficulties of command & control over a spread out force.

By the Numbers

The OPFOR had:

3 squads of 9, TL-10, Efficiency 6 (or 7) PL:4

The Wolfpack had:

10 team and squad elements, TL-12 Efficiency 4 PL: 2-4

PL is Preservation Level, equal to 40% of full strength. Once casualties amounting to 40% are taken, that unit will disengage or surrender.

Any two adjacent counters make contact, and those elements were free to engage in a battle round.

The Referee throws a die to determine the type of engagement. Either one side is Surprised, or Attacking, or it's a Firefight, with no clear attacker.

The Efficiency, unit size and TL all influence the engagement type as well as the outcome of the battle round. Each side makes a throw to determine casualties inflicted on the opponent, from 0% up to 50%. Each side can decide to continue the fight in the next turn, or maneuver away.

How it Went Down

The fight lasted four turns, with the Wolfpack getting the better of it. The PPDF made a lot of poor throws for damage, and was in danger of encirclement.

In the last turn, I threw a 1 (+1) for unit movement, so only two of the three squads could move. Turn Three was bad for the PPDF, so I decided they would break off and withdraw. Squad 3 had been hit worst; they got left behind as 1 & 2 retreated. Squad 3 decided to surrender to escape being wiped out. Six PPDF troopers became prisoners.

The abstract rules do not say much about resolving casualties after an abstract battle. Who died? Who's wounded?  How badly?  Book 4 does not give satisfactory answers to these questions. However, there are ways. 

Striker has tables for personnel wounds: light wounds (3D) and severe wounds (6D).

Since my son had UPP/stat blocks for all of his troops, we were able to determine the exact severity of the casualties. One trooper was severely wounded and needed surgery. The JTAS article Medical Treatment in Traveller has rules for surgery and recovery. The trooper who needed surgery survived, but will spend seven weeks recovering. The lightly wounded troops will be back on duty next week.

It took an hour to run the battle, and do the post-battle cleanup. Some of his troops gained XP towards morale increases. Others are due for Purple Heart badges. It was a seamless shift from the abstract rules of the battle to the concrete rules of wounding and recovery. The abstract system can handle units up to Brigade size. Using a hex map would not change that. Some day I will run a battle at brigade scale, integrated into a PC-level campaign.

The legal & random encounters happened. The Legal encounter was a Government Official coming to inspect something. He demanded the prisoners be turned over to the government (negative reaction throw). Next day a Patrol of soldiers arrived with a truck and undisguised contempt for all the 'hired soldiers'. (This was also a negative reaction throw). The PC owner decided not to argue with the government man about this, and turned over the prisoners.

We both felt that the abstract system worked well. I expect to use it again on Faldor, and with our regular Friday night game. Will the PPDF return to harass the Wolfpack again? Time will tell . . .

If you have ideas or suggestions about the Abstract Battle rules, please leave a comment!

1 comment:

  1. This is great stuff! Take the base system, and pulling in things like a commander's ability to control units.