Tuesday, 24 December 2013

WW2 20mm 1944 West Front with 9 year old

So, I had played a 20mm solo game recently (see this blog post) and had the table still set up when a few friends and their children came over.  The adults are gamers and they were from the recent cruise and gaming I did.  The guy that I play Armati occasionally has a nine year old son, L--- who, when he saw the table set up, said "Cool.  Can I play?".
Me: "Sure, why not, school holidays are coming up soon".
Him: "Great.  Tanks.  I like tanks."

And I had just, after many many years of wanting, bought some railway grass mats to use on large table that I wanted to use so that was another plus.

So it was arranged and this blog post is the result.  His Dad had to work so I am not sure if my friend was jealous or not - he has wanted to play a WW2 game for about 10 years, so possibly :-)

Leading up to the game
So I was only told the day of the game two days in advance.  Firstly, what rules?  I scoured my rules collection and found a few mechanisms I thought would work, but no rules as a whole that I was comfortable using to introduce a 9 year old to gaming for the first time.  Some of the rules I considered, and would be good maybe after a few other intro games, were Pz8 WW2 rules, Irregular Miniatures Mechanised Warfare Rules, Tigers and Stalins, Battlegroup Series, Armies in Crisis, Take Cover!!/Rapid Fire, Fields of Honor: WW2, Look Sarge, No Charts! WW2, Flames of War,   Combat:WW2.  I was looking for something with some command and control, easy infantry rules (e.g. 1 die per rifleman, 4 dice for an MMG, hit on a 4+) and something that differentiates armour values a bit as he did want tanks.

So, what did I end up with...ff you want to see the rules I played with they fit on two pages (and I wrote a 1 page QRS).  Go to this Google docs link to read them.

Otherwise here is a summary:

Command and control:
Card activation similar to TSATF - red and black cards for each side, draw your colour and you get to activate a unit of choice.  Units can activate once per turn and move, fire, move/fire, rally.  There is a joker that end the turn and reshuffle.  This worked well, but it was a stretch for L--- to remember what units had activated or not. I was going to put the cards behind the units as they were activated as a reminder, but forgot on the day.

To hit:
Simple to hit rules rules: 1d6 per soldier/tank: 4+ to hit, -1 > 1/2 range, -1 target in soft cover, -2 in hard cover, -1 if firer moved. Rifles fire out to 18", MMGs 36".  Infantry that are hit are destroyed; tanks that are hit use a simple gun value minus armour value for destruction or pinned. MMGs roll 4 dice.  This worked well too.  The one thing was when he hit a tank, he wanted to roll multiple dice to destroy.  I was tempted to use something like the IABSM armour penetration (rolling d6s equal to armour and penetration values, count all the 5s and 6s and compare).  I have used something before years ago, I may drag change it to this type of armour rules next time.

If an infantry unit takes a  casualty, roll for morale.  This is very similar to the Battlegroup morale  table; basically a 4+ to pass, otherwise pinned, retreat or rout depending on circumstances.  This worked VERY well, better than I thought it would.

Although I had rules for spotting, I did not use them except in woods.

Late 1944. He wanted tanks so let's have some Panthers. I did Western Front as the terrain will be less open and there is fun in finding the fire lanes as you play.

German (L--- the 9 year old)
3 Panthers
3 Panzer IVJ
1 HQ
    1 truck
    1 staff car
    5 rifles
3 infantry units each:
    10 rifles
    1 Panzerschreck
    1 halftrack
1 Mortar Support
    1 81mm mortar + truck
1 MMG support
    2 MMG + 1 half track

British (me)
2 tank squadrons:
    2 Sherman
    1 Sherman Firefly
1 HQ
    2 rifles
    1 50mm mortar
    1 PIAT
3 infantry units each:
    10 rifles
1 Carrier Support
    4 Carriers
    1 LMG
    1  50mm mortar
    1 PIAT

You may note that I have underpowered the British a little bit - no halftracks and not really equality in tanks.  But I thought that would be a fair balance as I have played lots of WW2 and L--- none. As you will see, I should not have bothered; L--- proved that golden rule that children get all the luck

Table setup
River down the centre, bridge and ford but can cross by spending one turn. a village, a few outlying buildings with generous wheat fields (can see all the way into a wheatfield but not through unless vehicle to vehicle), hedges and walls.
Table overview (1/2 a table tennis table), Germans enter from left, British from right.
Germans come in on the village side, Brits on the other.

Overview of how the units entered and moved during the game
The primary objective is to hold the bridge, secondary objective is the crossroads next to the ford.

The objectives from the view of the whole table.
And a view of the objectives (left and right in the centre) from the British side.
At this point I should mention that my 5 year old like to get into terrain setup and pushing stuff around using "his rules" (His rules are roll the die and regardless what it say move something somewhere - take alternative turns doing this.  That's it.  He will tell you who wins any combat!).  When I left the table half-setup he got busy putting on hills, dragons teeth, more buildings, troops etc.  It would have taken him 40mins-60mins to do.  Very scenic:

How a five year old builds up terrain.  The hill in the river may be a bit much

I especially like the fact that he surrounded the church with undergrowth:

The church is a little surrounded by bushes. And hills. And dragons teeth. And walls on hill.  And rocks.

I am not wedded to the terrain or troops - I do not mind him doing this when I am around, and when it is out.  He knows not to touch anything while I am at work!

The Game
So I decide to focus on the crossroads and the ford, and then work over to the village/bridge.
L--- focuses on the village/bridge but brings on all 3 Panthers to cover the crossroads.

The Panthers arrive.  They stayed here for half the game, L--- was nervous I may get a shot in with a Firefly.  At least they were pinned for quite a while.
On the first turn he goes "can I shoot with my Panther at your Firefly?"  It does have line of sight.

The LOS for the first shot of the game.
"Sure, but you will need a 6 - you moved and it is over 1/2 range."  Rolls a 6.  "OK, now roll to see if you destroy it - a 6 will do it".  Rolls a 6.  One firefly gone with the first two rolls of the game.

And the result.  A "6" to hit followed by a "6" for penetration.  Only children can do this.
However, the Panthers did not move further as the other Firefly had a clear shot if they moved up the road.  In fact L--- played quite defensively for the first half of the game and did not move anything to where I might get a shot at him.

These troops were the subject to indecision and were loaded and unloaded into the halftrack and went from the wood on one side of the road to the other

The movement of the unit during the game.  It did not help them, this was one of the few units I managed to destroy.

I slowly and steadily moved up the table.  I did race the Carriers up to take some houses but the mortar and Tank MMGs should them whittled down and eventually rout.

I did move the tanks into line of sight of the Panzer IVs but their return fire always saw a Sherman brew up.   No second chances here!

The Panzer IVs and some infantry in the village before the bridge.

Eventually he moved the infantry and Panzer IVs from the village to circle and take the bridge.

They move out of the village and sweep around the flank of the village to help control the bridge.  A good tactic.

I finally managed to destroy a Panzer IV and cause one infantry unit to get to 50% and retreat.  But I could not dislodge his forces from around the bridge and my infantry unit their was pushed away and then routed.

A Panzer IV braved the bridge.  The Brits (me) fired a few times at it but never managed to hit it.  L--- managed to KO the tanks that fired on the Panzer IV while the Panzer IV was busy machine gunning some of my troops near the bridge.

Proof that the Germans made it to the other side of the bridge.  That is a brewed up Sherman in the foreground.

On the cross roads side, L--- did move two Panthers around the back to support the village.  I got in a flank shot for no effect :-(.  The remaining Panther stayed behind.

L--- did mention that he should get an extra -1 to the die to hit the Panthers as their camo (compared to the British tanks) would make them harder to hit.

  I tried to attack it with infantry assaults but no luck.  It then mowed them down with MMGs.

I close assault the Panther at the edge of the woods.  With no luck, and the Panther then used the MMG to good effect.  He also wanted to run me down.

But.. on the wooded flank  I had some success, close combat with an opposing infantry unit saw me very victorious...until the Panther came over and wiped me out with MMGs.

I close assault a unit in the woods.  My only run of 6s in the game and I win the combat.

I only had two functioning units on the table, and they were badly depleted.  I rolled a higher morale and got a 1.  It was time to pullback and so L-- is the winner!

End of game.  German remaining unit circled in grey, Brits in Blue.  Destroyed British tanks in red.

The rules worked really well.  And L--- really had a great time.  Although most of the time I was telling him what to roll, near the end he was getting some of the modifiers correct.  He had a fairly good grasp of tactics too.  I did not pull my tactics as I was starting with a some minor disadvantages (less powerful troops and further to go to the bridge). He wants to play again which is a good sign.  He asked about getting his own tanks but when I said you will have to paint them or pay more to buy them painted, his response was an incredulous "You had to paint all of them?" (Actually, I did paint the British about 30 years ago as a teenager, and the Panthers.  The rest of the Germans I acquired painted). And he wants to help set up the terrain next time too - I enjoy doing that too!  He did see my ancient figures and wants to have a go with them as well. It is slightly weird introducing a child to the hobby as I have not done so before.  It may have been weird but it was most satisfying.


  1. Yes I was envious, but better L gets a go :) maybe in the new year for us W.

  2. L--- had a fantastic time. He was still talking about it this morning. I think you have won him over lol.

  3. Great stuff Shawn! Get'em while they're young!


  4. Great AAR and well done on introducing a new one to the hobby. My 6-year old daughter plays Memoir 44 and Song of Blades and Heroes. I've been meaning to get her in to WW2 wargaming proper (she knows how to execute a flank attack). I may just use your rules to do it! Great job!

    1. Yes, L--- knew how to execute a flank attack with no prompting, kudos to him.

      I have read that you play SoBH with your 6 yo. I have a 7 yo daughter and have been tempted to try SoBH out as it seems to work for you. She does not seem too interested in wargaming, but does not mind figure role playing cross over-type things we have done off the cuff. Using SoBH would be more formal but has tactics and a bit of narrative to the game. She may enjoy it, may not. Maybe even this holidays!

  5. Give Swordplay from 2-Hour Wargames a go too. It bridges roleplaying / wargaming nicely (and it's free). They also have Warrior Heroes Legends which is very rpg/wargaming crossover. Both have very simple mechanics too.

  6. Really enjoyed reading that, plus the bonus of the youngsters being involved in something that may become their passion as well. Great stuff. Norm.

  7. Fantastic! A great report and nice to see someone introduced to the hobby. And they won!