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Subject: Some Modern Spearhead musings rss

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John Moher
New Zealand
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The following are some general thoughts on MSH that may be of interest to readers. They are from responses over recent years to queries about certain parts of the rules.

IFV Combat Teams
FWIW the rules are very carefully constructed to accommodate these in a unique and flexible manner that most importantly maintains game balance and fits in with the overall approach of the rules. We went through lengthy trials and discussions deciding how best to represent these. Many gamers struggle with this issue and can not get past the idea that the vehicle and infantry and not two separate entities. This (i.e. 2 separate stands) is not a good option, it unbalances the rules and makes the IFV teams far more powerful than they should be – all the data card values are based on these being ‘combined’ teams, not two separate entities occupying the same space.

Troop Quality/Training affecting Firepower
A bugbear of mine – the cry, “my veteran troops don’t shoot any better than my opponents green ones” – to which I disagree, they do! When stands are suppressed, 50% more Veteran units will return to action compared to Green ones and hence the combat effectiveness is represent here, at the target end not the initiator. There are several reasons for this, one of which being the restrictions of the d6, in the case of poor quality armies the factors on the data cards have already been reduced in many cases to include poor quality training, and another being game scale – we make no separate allowance for movement directly affecting fire combat effectiveness so neither did we include additional minor factors for crew skill (over and above overall army skill level). So overall this is reflected, just not in the usual big plus on the “to hit” die that most 1:1 gamers are probably used to!

Order of Fire for Attacks to reflect Training
If you do feel a need to represent differences in troop quality I’d prefer to see this option used rather than adjusting die rolls. Simply allow higher quality trained troops to fire first within each firing sub-phase (this idea was originally proposed by Mark Bevis in the SOTCW Journal). Personally I don’t actually see a need for this anyway – since the better-trained forces have advantages basically everywhere else, if they need this as well they aren’t being commanded very well! But once again, if you prefer it, then I suggest this rather than some sort of fire modifier.

Moving under Defend Orders
This is possible to do this and you may move in any direction provided what you do is a reaction to the enemy you spotted rather than moving off against some as yet undetected threat (the old helicopter view general ship issue!

Also by issuing an order change (once any enemy are spotted) all stands in the recipient battalion may make an unlimited pivot next movement phase, as they can also do when the reach the end of their attack ‘arrow’. In MSH units have large CZ’s, so a fair bit of flexibility is possible within a CZ when reacting to such an order change or a timed order. In 99% of cases this is sufficient to accommodate delaying tactics or minor repositioning of defending troops who are not directly engaged.

Using TI to spot troops in cover
In general our view is this is an unnecessary complexity – it’s just another minor rule that will have little impact on 99% of games and will simply slow them down. It’s only benefit would be to extend the distance troops are spotted at in some rare situations. We culled out several of these types of rules prior to publishing to assist game play and speed up games. However we have no objection to some such rule per se, so feel free to develop your own ‘house rule’ variant if you feel it’s important.

Close Assaults
A failed assault only results in troops retiring when a single defender defeats multiple attackers. The logic here is that the (defeated) stand(s) will advance again on the following move, so it/they retreat(s) a double move back, then will presumably advance a full move forward the next turn, thereby ending up 1 move away from where the attempted assault was the previous move. This is solely a mechanism to have the stands end up in the desired position (1 full move from the original target) and unable to immediately assault again on the following turn. An alternate more complicated messy option would have been a standard single move retreat, followed by a suppression that could not be removed that turn. This is obviously very clumsy, and leaves the stand vulnerable to suppressing fire the following bound and so on – which we did not want.

In conclusion I’d like to remind players that MSH is all about what you enjoy – so if you aren’t happy with something feel free to experiment. MSH is designed to provide a backbone for your games, and scenario designers are encouraged to incorporate special rules to add flavour to individual games. If you don’t like something – change it! Hopefully you will play fast exciting games, have lots of fun, and when it’s all over look at the final result and say “that’s probably the result that would have happened in real life!”

Happy Gaming!

(Parts of this article were originally published by me in the SOTCW’s Journal and are used here with my permission).
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