Following is an overview/review of the Take Cover! WW2 miniature rules. Take Cover was published in 1998 by Britannia Miniatures, along with a slew of army organisation booklets. Authored by Dave Howitt (& others), it is a game best compared to Rapid Fire as it is designed for 20mm miniatures, and you play with one to several battalions. Each figure represents 10 men in Take Cover!, which is similar to Rapid Fire’s 1:15 ratio. They are long out of print, there is a dearth of Take Cover! information on the internet (I have found two passing references and the Take Cover yahoo group has been just spam for many years) and the Britannia Miniatures site makes no mention of anything Take Cover!
I played a lot of Take Cover! around 2001-2004. I have played a few games of it since, due to lack of time rather than lack of enjoyment. I was recently digging out my WW2 stuff to start to attempt to play again, and looking for rules. I was looking for rules where 1 base = 1 squad and 1:1 vehicles. None of the rules I looked at were really satisfying so I started on the track of writing my own and after a couple of months realized I was really just tweaking Take Cover. So I dug out Take Cover! and remembered how good it was. Although set with 1 figure = 10 men, it plays more like a set at the next level down, which is why I am looking at using them, only slightly tweaked, for the 1 base = 1 squad, 1:1 vehicles. Note this criticism is similar to that aimed at Rapid Fire, and there are many similarities between both games. I prefer Take Cover! They play sort-of like Rapid Fire and if you know and like that, Take Cover! will not make you switch. But if you think Rapid Fire is just OK, and a looking for something similar but better, then that could be Take Cover! It appears occasionally on eBay.
Just a week after brushing off Take Cover! to start to get into it again, I read with sadness about the passing of Dave Howitt. So, in remembrance, I thought it would be useful to review the WW2 rules he wrote that I enjoyed and hope to continue to enjoy. A lot of this post is taken from a document I wrote in 2002 as an introduction for some of my friends to the rules. I hope to play a game and post a battle report soon-ish.
Summary of the rules
This section is a quick overview of the game. If you don’t want to read the detailed review that follows, this section should give enough of a feel of the rules.
Each figure represents 10 men and infantry figures are classed as rifle or SMG. A vehicle generally represents 4 vehicles. Infantry support weapons represent 3 weapons and have 2-3 crew. 1”=25 yards. The smallest units is a company (usually 10-14 figures for infantry or 2-4 for vehicles). And Companies are formed into Battalions. There were a lot of army organisations available for Take Cover, of which I only have a few. The die/dice used throughout the rules are a single d6 with +/- modifiers. Figures are removed as casualties are scored.
Turn sequence is split into a number of phases:
- Close Quarters
Within each phase, one side will go first, followed by the other side. This side with the initiative determines this for each phase. This causes for interesting decisions at times.
Each turn each side rolls a die for initiative, better commanded troops get a modifier.
Movement: Infantry move cross country 6” a turn while the average tank moves 8”. Various and expected penalties for obstacle crossing, reverse, road, limbering etc. Company figures/vehicles must stay within a command radius of the unit commander (12” for infantry, 24” for AFVs). Generally vehicles cannot move and fire. Infantry may move and fire at -1 to the die roll.
Units (companies) or individual AFVs try and spot enemy units to their front. You can only fire at units you can see. The arc for spotting and for firing for all (including vehicles) is 22.5 degrees to either side. Units in the open can be seen out to 80” but for units concealed most of the time they cannot be seen beyond 36” – even if firing - and often at 8” only. There is a simple chart for spotting. There are rules for the non-moving player to fire at moving troops that move into cover or out of a units arc.
Straightforward aircraft rules based on mission type. Only played with them a few times but they mesh in well with the rest of the system.
Indirect HE fire occurs by
- indicating the target
- rolling for a radio link (generally a forward observer calling in the fire)
- rolling to register the target
- rolling for casualties
Radio link is normally 2+ on d6 . A company commander calls in their own battalion assets using the same system. To register a stationary target is 3+. If not registered, target is automatically registered next turn. Most HE attacks will cause at least a 1 figure casualty to targets in the open. There are also rules for pre-registered, pre-planned and pre-game fire.
Anti Tank is roll to hit the target (base 4+ +/- a number of modifiers), and then, if hit, roll for possible damage. There are a total of 10 gun types in the game (3 are for hand held anti-tank) and vehicles, for armour, are classified into light, medium and heavy. The is a small chart with gun type on one side and range bands (close, battle, long, extreme) on the other. The intersection gives the damage result, one of three possible:
Ricochet (3 ricochets and crew test for bailing out)
Damaged (tank is either immobilised or guns out of action; half-tracks, carriers are destroyed)
Kaput (2 damaged = Kaput)
Major modifiers are +1 light tank, -1 Heavy.
Example of the damage table: Gun type 5 (German 75/L48) at battle range (18”-36”) is R:1-3 D: 4 K:5-6.
Simple but there are nuances in the damage table, especially for the different guns. Seems to reflect their relative effect well.
Small Arms fire is performed by 1 to 6 figures and resolved with a single d6 roll, plus modifiers. The more figures, the better chance of scoring casualties. There is a table that gets better with the number of figures. Infantry support weapons are classed in terms of figure comparison. A MMG is classed as 4 figures, with +1 to the die; an LMG is 3 figures with +2 to the die. 1 figure will score a casualty on a 5-6 in the open. An MMG will always score 1 casualty in the open. It is really only possible to score 2 casualties using 4 figures or above. Rifles fire out to 18”, while Medium machine guns fire out to 36”. Each weapon has two ranges but for nearly every weapon the chance to hit is the same at any range.
Grenades are represented in the rules with a 3” range.
Infantry groups will be suppressed in a turn if they
- Are within 18” of enemy fire
- receive a casualty
- and receive fire from twice the number of enemy figures (or support weapons equivalents)
They are also suppressed from indirect fire if receive a casualty and it was 2 or more guns firing.
Suppression is lifted at the end of the similar phase in the following turn.
If troops are in base to base contact then close quarter fighting may occur. Each sides rolls a die, adds the number of figures and some other modifiers. If you lose, lose 3 figures and retreat. Winner loses 1 figure and advances.
Units are militia, regular, veteran or elite. This classification is mostly used for morale. A regular company checks morale once it has lost more than 30% (Veterans are 40%). of the troops, and for every casualty received after that. Results vary from OK to staying in place to withdrawing to routing. Once a certain level of figures in a battalion are lost or withdrawing/routing, a higher level morale test, with similar results, is also performed.
At the start, companies are given general orders on what to do during the game. Orders change requests are made at the end of a turn, generally on a 4+ modified for nationality. Order changes occur, if successful, at the end of the following turn.
The game also includes some ‘chrome’ such as rules for German and Russian political interference/military police and German armoured assault advantages.
Note: there are 4 pages of amendments which I don’t know when published, but I found them as images on the Britannia Miniatures site in 2003. The changes to the game include:
- Extending the range of direct HE fire
- Rules for elements outside command range
- Rules extensions for beach landings
- Implemented an orders network with chains of command
- A d10 (with modifiers) motivation test for infantry units under fire, taken prior to moving. Another big change as ½ the time infantry will not move.
- Vehicles can move and fire (with a -1 modifier to firing). This is a big change
- LMGs for rifle groups are now separate figures. This is a big change but as we were never sure what it really meant, we did not implement it. Some members of the TakeCover yahoo group concurred.
- Minor changes and clarifications to sections of the rules
Click here for the amendments in PDF.
End of summary. Read on if you want to know even more.
The Rulebook and addons
The rulebook is 55 pages on glossy paper with a colour cover. The sections follow the rules sequence. Included are vehicle, gun and aircraft classifications for all major nationalities Two large NW Europe scenarios. No organisation lists. No points but there is a flowchart on building a force. No quick reference chart.
As well as the rules, a large number of army organisation booklets were produced. I don’t know how many, and I’ve only got about 5 myself, I seem to remember lots. Each booklet had about 10-20 pages with each page have a subset of the division organisation. They were broken down by broadly by side, division and year. For example, British Infantry Division 1943-1945 had pages for Artillery, Infantry Battalion, Divisional Support etc. Specific notes pertaining to specific divisions was occasionally included e.g. No Comets in Italy.
Lastly, there was a booklet called Tactical Memoir Aide #1 that has about 20 pages of WW2 infantry an armour tactics, mostly diagrams with a small amount of explanatory test. But a handy introduction.
The rules are designed to use 20mm miniatures.
Each infantry figure represents 10 men (a section).
Each tank/vehicle represents 4 vehicles, except passenger vehicles that represent 10: A company of Panzer Grenadiers - 10 figures - is carried by 1 half-track.
Each support element (e.g. Mortar, Anti-tank gun, MMG) represents 3 support elements. Support units have a crew of 2 or three figures.
The ground scale is 1” = 25 yards and all measurements are done in inches.
By having such a scale the combat, command and morale rules can be made simpler. The game actually still plays like a tactical game.
The following shows a typical British NW Europe Infantry battalion from 1944.
1 Battalion HQ:
1 CO (Rifle)
2 figs with PIAT
1 15cwt truck
4 Company, each
2 figs with PIAT
2 figs with 2” Mortar
1 Support Company
1 Anti-Tank Platoon
1 6pdr AT Gun
1 Mortar Platoon
2 3” mortar
1 Pioneer Platoon
3 Mine Detector
1 Carrier Platoon
2 figs with PIAT
1 Bren Carrier
1 MMG Platoon
3 figs with MMG
Note: the amendments split out inherent LMGs into distinct bases. This was a significant change to the organisational charts and we were not sure what that meant , likely split out each one and using the 1:3 ratio for support weapons, increase companies with 9 figures with 3 LMG bases. This was quite a change. We did not care for it and so ignored it. No one on the take cover yahoo group owned up to using this change.
Tanks have 2 values – type and gun class. Type is either Heavy, Medium, Light, Passenger (same as light but can carry figures), Soft-Skin.
Type is used for armour class and movement. There is one other class – Cruiser – that is identical to Medium except it moves slightly faster. Gun class is the gun for the tank – there are 7 general gun classes.
(tank, type, gun class)
Panzer IV, M, 5
Tiger II, H, 2
Sdkfz251/1, P, MMG
M4 Sherman, M, 6
Sherman Firefly, M, 4
Stuart, L, 7
Bren Carrier, P, LMG
Basic orders need to be given to each Battalion and Company. This should be simple, for example:
Battalion to advance up to take the village with 1st company going via the road, 2nd company through the fields and 3rd company to act as backup behind the first to. Support Company to advance to hill on right.
Will hold and defend against enemy attack.
For each battalion a left and right axis needs to be drawn down the table. This is the area of operational control for the battalion – it cannot move outside this area of control (although it can fire out of it).
New orders may be given in reaction to visible enemy forces (or knowledge by radio via recce forces of such units) or when achieved objective. Orders request happen at the end of a turn. For new orders, roll 4+ on 1d6, with some nationality modifiers. New orders take effect the end next turn.
In the amendments, additionally an orders network needed to be specified for each side, and orders needed to go up and down the order chain.
Victory goes to the side that has troops left on the table that have not broken or withdrawn, or has control of most objectives.
· Layout the table with all sorts of terrain - roads, buildings, fields, hills, hedges etc
· Determine if objectives are going to be used and define them
· work out the initial orders for the units (easy to do with a map)
· Determine pre-bombardment impact areas.
· Start the first turn
· Roll 1d6 each for initiative. Better commanded sides get modifiers to the roll. Higher roll gets to choose who moves first and fires first in each phase of the turn.
Movement (initiative player gets to choose who moves first)
· Attempt to spot troops and perform speculative fire at moving/firing but unspotted enemy
· Test or arrival of planes, conduct attacks and AA fire.
Fire Phase (initiative player chooses who fires first)
· HE, Anti-Tank and small arms
· Last turn suppression lifted
Close Quarters phase
· Grenades, flamethrowers etc
· Hand to hand fighting
· Unit morale tests
· Higher unit tests (generally only required if lots of lower units broken/lost)
· request change of orders
· implement fresh orders
Note: All moving and firing is alternate, so troops are removed immediately upon loss.
Arcs for firing and moving
Each vehicle or infantry unit has a arc 22.5 degrees to either side. This is the arc used to determine what a unit can spot or fire at. AFV turrets cannot pivot until engine damage.
Command and control
Each infantry figure of a company must remain within 12” of their officer.
Each AFV of a regiment must remain with in 24” of the command vehicle.
ALL company officers must remain within 48” of the battalion officer.
Snipers and engineers may operate up to 48” away.
If officer is killed, a new figure takes his place, but this may cause a penalty in a morale test.
The rules do not allow subunits to be split away, meaning an company MMG had to stay within 12”. The amendments contained rules on operating subunits outside normal command radius.
Generally infantry move around 8” on road, 6” in the field and 4” on hills.
Mediums AFVs move 10” on roads, 8” in the field and 5” on hills.
Heavy AFVs move a bit slower and light AFVs faster.
Half-tracks move fast on roads (12”) but only 6” in fields.
Infantry get a charge bonus if moving into contact.
There are penalties for linear obstacles, reverse, turning etc.
Unmounting does not penalise any movement for the vehicle but unmounting units have a limited move. Generally troops cannot unmount within 9”-15” of an enemy. However, German half-tracks/tank riders have no restriction on distance, and may dismount into contact. And count as charging!
Movement & Firing
No anti tank weapon or AFV mounted AT gun may move and fire in the same turn, except hand held AT weapons such as a bazooka. Note the amendments changed this to allow move and fire.
All infantry weapons may move and fire.
Vehicle machine guns may fire after the vehicle has moved at close range.
The amendments included a new motivation test (4+ to pass on a d10 +/- modifiers) for infantry that were under fire. The motivation test needed to be passed before an infantry unit could move. Not passing had not other effect than the unit could not move. The amendments came out at the tail end of us playing Take cover. The modifiers were similar to the morale test, so we simply have infantry units under fire needed to pass a morale test, rather than use a d10 and another table.
If a unit moves through arc of fire or from open to cover an unmoved enemy may use disruptive fire against it. The firing unit cannot fire in upcoming fire phase.
Spotting is done per infantry company or individual vehicle or individual crew served gun.
May test against any enemy in arc. While it might seem restrictive, there are notes in a Tactical Memoir by Dave arguing the validity of this approach.
It isn’t easy to spot troops. Generally if they are not in the open and haven’t fired or moved you only have a chance within 8”. If they are concealed and fired/moved you still only have a chance up to 36”. Spotting is based on range, infantry/tank, open/concealed/total cover and moved/fired.
If an enemy unit was visible but fired or moved within your arc but failed to spot (e.g. moved into cover) then you may be able to speculatively fire on the target. The amendments loosened the restriction on speculative fire.
A unit that is suppressed only moves at half-speed and cannot do any other actions (such as firing) for a turn.
To suppress and infantry unit/element requires at least double the firepower (or equivalent) from Small arms, and must have scored at least one casualty. Vehicles may only be suppressed by Indirect HE fire. Indirect HE will suppress if a casualty is scored; Direct HE will also but requires two guns firing.
Suppression is important (as in my opinion it should be).
There are rules for potential random air support. Aircraft fly a certain type of mission e.g. spotting, bombing, ground attack. This dictates how they move, spot and attack. Attacks are carried out the same as HE, small Arms or anti-tank depending on the weapon type. Anti-aircraft fire has its own to hit and damage chart, similar to the vehicle one
Indirect HE fire
Indirect HE fire is firing from mortars, howitzers or off-table batteries of guns. Range examples:
Light mortars 4” to 18”
75mm to 85mm 4”-72”
Indirect elements do not have to be on the table (unless their range is shorter than the table!)
Indirect can be pre-planned, pre-game bombardment, observed, barrage. Generally observed,
so will also have a Forward Observer (FOO) who will be calling in fire. For some smaller mortars, the unit itself is the forward observer. Battalion assets can be called in by company officers.
Multiple guns in a single unit/battery fire at the same place but roll a die for each gun to determine casualties.
· Place impact template where you wish fire to land
· Forward observer rolls 1d6 for radio link (2+ with some modifiers)
· Roll 1d6 to see if registered target (3+ with some modifiers)
· If registered, roll 1d6 per gun, +/- some modifiers and check casualty chart.
· If applicable, check for building structural damage
· If applicable, roll 1d6 for possibility of building fire.
If register fails, target is automatically registered nest turn.
Once fire is registered, firing will continue until FOO requires cease fire, or change or target.
For an example of Structural damage: 50-105mm guns score 1 structural damage point and a single storey house has 10 points. Other guns score larger damage. When this limit is reached, the building collapses and may cause casualties.
The impact template is a 3” circle for up to 100m weapons, 5” for up to 155mm.
Fired smoke may not hit target – use d10: 1-8 not on target (the impact template has 8 off centre points for placement), 9 on target, 0 is misfire.
Each gun produces a strip of 2” smoke that drifts for 3 turns and then dissipates.
Two medium mortars (81mm – gun group 6) firing at a target 36” away. Mortar is its own FOO.
Place impact template – covers two infantry figures in the open.
Roll for link – need a 2+. Assume successful
Roll to register – need a 3+. Assume successful
Roll for casualties – rolled a 2 and a 5. No modifiers. The 2 scores 1 casualty and the 5 scores 2 casualties. All figures are dead.
If the infantry figures were in a building then roll for casualties becomes: rolled a 2 and a 5. Hard cover modifier of –2 changes rolls to 0 and 3. The 0 causes no casualties and the 3 scores 1 casualty. The building receives one structure point of damage and a roll of 5 shows it did not catch fire.
Direct HE fire
Direct HE fire is when a tank or howitzer gun fire HE directly at a target. Each gun fires individually. The amendments increased significantly the range for Direct HE.
· Roll 1d6 per gun to hit +/- some modifiers
· Roll 1d6 on the casualty chart +/- some modifiers
· If applicable, check for building structural damage and possbility of fire
Anti-tank guns/weapons are rated from 1 (best) to 10 (worst). For example, a Tiger II has a 2 gun, a Panther has a 4 gun; a Panzer IV has a 5 gun. The American M4 Sherman has a 6 gun. A bazooka is a 8 gun.
· Measure Range
· To hit, roll 1d6, need a 4+ and +/- some modifiers
· If HIT, roll 1d6 and +/- some modifiers to determine potential damage using a damage table. Major modifiers are +1 light tank, -1 Heavy.
Under 18” give a bonus to attempt to hit, over 60” is harder to hit.
Targets over 36” cannot be damaged by guns of size 5 or more (most medium tank guns).
The is a small chart with the 10 gun types on one side and range bands (close, battle, long, extreme) on the other. The intersection gives the damage result, one of three possible – Ricochet, Disabled or Kaput.
Ricochet does nothing except once have 3 ricochets, roll for crew bailing out (generally 5-6 on 1d6).
Disabled will knock out a S or P vehicle and test for passenger casualties, plus may destroy a towed gun.
Disabled for L/M/C/H will cause crew bailing out test and either disable movement OR main gun. Two Disabled = Kaput.
Kaput is a vehicle blows up, crew killed, test for passenger casualties.
A typical example to give idea of hitting a target.
Panzer IV (medium with gun 5) is firing on a Sherman tank (medium with gun 6) at 20”. Neither moved.
TO HIT: roll 1d6 and get a 3. Modifiers are target stationary (+1) this move so it is now a 4. 4+ is required so a hit!
TO DAMAGE: roll 1d6 and get a 4. no modifiers. Cross reference gun type 5 at battle range (18”-36”) is R:1-3 D: 4 K:5-6.
So a 4 is a Disabled result.
Sherman rolls a 3 for crew bail out (they stay) and a 1 for damage type (guns or tracks) so tank is immobilised but can still fire its guns.
Infantry AT notes
Infantry hand held antitank uses the same system as other antitank fire but range is limited e.g. a Bazooka range is 6”.
Small Arms fire
Each infantry figure is armed with a Rifle or SMG. Crew served weapons (MMGs, mortars, anti-tank guns) have a crew of three figures. Machine guns are classed as a number of infantry figure equivalents e.g. an MMG fires as if it were 4 figures.
Rifle/SMG figures can be combined into fire groups with a maximum of 6 figures and no more than 2” between one figure and the next. Targets can be anything up to a company or a P or S vehicle. Machines guns fire individually but do have a target template that limits the number of enemy figures that can be targetted.
SMGs have a maximum range of 6”. Rifles and LMGs can fire out to 18”. MMG/HMGs out to 36”.
Vehicle mounted MGs may only fire up to 15”.
· Roll 1d6 +/- modifiers
· Check roll against a table indexed by number of figures firing to determine casualties.
4 Rifle infantry figures that are moving fire at 6 infantry figures moving behind a hedge. Range is 10”.
Roll of d6 is a 4. –1 for target in soft cover, -1 for target moving, -1 for firer moving, +1 for rifles at this range. This is a final die of 2 with 4 figures firing, which is 1 casualty.
Stationary German MMG opens up on 4 figures that can be covered by the template crossing the road. Range is 30”.
Roll of d6 is a 5. –1 target is moving, +1 for MMG at this range.
Final die roll of 5 with 4 figures (MMG equivalent) is 2 casualties.
Close Quarters Phase
Must be in base to base contact with enemy. Split into melee groups by company that are in base to base contact.
Roll 1d6 per side for each melee and add modifiers.
Highest score wins and loses 1 figure. Loser loses 3 figures. On a tie both lose a figure.
Loser must withdraw immediately move one move distance back or one room (if in building).
Winner may move up to 3” inches immediately.
Basic Morale (Company level)
Basic morale tests are taken at the company or tank regiment level and is based on casualty loss.
Units are militia/partisan, regular, veteran or elite. Regular troops will test when they lose 30% of the unit. Veterans at 40%. Tests occur based on this percentage loss, and for every loss thereafter. Morale types are also used to modify the initiative roll.
· Roll 1d6 and add an subtract modifiers
Infantry carry on if score 1 or more. Negative scores will result in pinning a unit (cannot move) or worse, withdrawing, or even worse, routing. To advance with a unit that has withdrawn requires a 1d6 roll of 3+.
Vehicles/Artillery carry on if score of 3 or more. Lesser scores have effects similar to infantry.
Higher Morale (Battalion/Brigade)
There comes a time when even higher commands will decide it is time to withdraw. When casualties/withdrawing/routing reach 40% of command size, test and test every time a figure is lost after that.
Roll a 1d6 and add/subtract modifiers. 2 or more is fine. Lower scores will result in pulling back for a number of turns.
There are various national distinctions throughout the rules. Examples include:
· German troops are more likely to get initiative (e.g. German regulars get +1 to initiative roll, British regulars get +0).
· Germans can close assault with half-tracks.
· Rules for defying the Fuhrer’s orders of no retreat.
· The Russian and German Police force.
· Russian Commissars.
· Russians before Stalingrad are more likely to break.
· Germans are less likely to bail from tanks than allies.
I liked them when I was playing them. I still like them. At the time I started playing them, in 2001, I had a 20 year background in Tractics, and a little of Combined Arms and Squad Leader for miniatures. Take Cover! was like a breath of fresh air. Although it plays with battalions - with 1 figure = 1 squad/section/squadron - it plays tactically more like a game next level down, so it wasn’t that hard to make the jump. It is simpler to play than Tractics etc but not simplistic. It is a good representation of combat at that level – I don’t know but it is fun to play. So I can’t really pin down what I did like – kinda ‘old school’, tactically rich, not lots of exceptions in the rules.
So, what didn’t I like? Most of them are minor.
Individual figures – moving individually based figures rather than multiple figure bases just takes longer. Sure, it is easy to remove casualties, but when a battalion often has (excluding crew served weapons that have the crew based with the weapon) over 50 individual figures to move, the game just takes longer. And Take Cover will often have two battalions on the table. The solution is to play with just about a battalion a side, which is what I was doing at the tail end of my playing. I am also thinking of moving the whole system to one level down where a base = 1 section and 1:1 for vehicles. Will change almost none of the rules except simplify the small arms combat table and possibly increase arcs of fire slightly.
AFV damage just seemed a little two detailed – damaged could result in crew bailout, immobilised or guns out. While you can always abstract away and justify anything, this one seemed a little harder. One resolution suggested on the TakeCover yahoo group was just assume damaged vehicles moved at 1/3 rate and were -1 to fire.
Plays mostly like skirmish when it is a battalion game. Common criticism and also applies to Rapid Fire. While ignoring it at the time, it does bug me. After reading through a lot more rules in the last 6 years, I think the game would operate just as well at a level of detail down with no change to the rules, except maybe increasing spotting and arc of fire arcs.