British Cromwell hunts Whittman!

British Cromwell hunts Whittman!
A pic from a Fireball game at Fall In 2010

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Incoming...initial artillery rules.

Ok...we started trying on the artillery rules last night. The scenario is titled 'Steel Curtain' and models a fight between elements of the 2nd SS Engineer Battlion and the US 1st Battalion, 120th Regiment. Historically, the dogfaces stopped an attack by the SS Engineers partly through the liberal application of heavy artillery. But according to the historical record (the US Army official history of the action) the artillery mainly pounded the road network that the Germans were using to support the main assault. Interestingly, the Germans were doing the same to the Americans. Both sides were trying to isolate the fight so reinforcements, supply and general movement would be hindered. Basically it seemed to be interdiction fire. The heavy stuff did not appear to be used in direct support...the US artillery even makes mention of how proud they were not to have killed any/many of their thier own troops. Mortars seems to have been the artillery weapon of choice for the tactical environment.

Based on that we break the artillery into two types: light mortars and off-board heavy artillery. Light mortars are placed on the table and can fire either directly at a target or indirectly if directed by a leader. This seemed to work fine although the numbers need to be scrutinized. The greatest thing about using them was the German player had the elements of a platoon all huddled up together against a hedgerow when a battery of 3 60mm mortars fell on them. After they all routed and were rallied by their intreped leader they returned to the hedgrow with sufficient spacing to avoid getting clobbered again. I love it when rules force players to adopt proper tactics!

Off-board artillery is used to affect the opponents 'initiative.' I'll do a write up about 'initiative' tomorrow as it is at the heart of the game. Suffice to say for now that it allows a player to move a unit (platoon) an extra move during a turn. Usually a player will use 'initiative' on a key unit on a turn for a key move. Heavy off-board artillery can be used to prevent an enemy player from using initiative. If a player has a leader that can observe the enemy unit trying to use initiative they can call for artillery. If successful the enemy can not use initiative. This is an abstract way to model the 'interdicting fire' effect of heavy artillery. Attacks would start to bog down and by preventing 'initiative' that it what tends to happen in Fireball Forward. I think we are on the right track here but it needs a few more playtests.

It occurs to me that if anyone is reading this you might want a little more about the design philosophy. I will blog about that later in the week.


  1. Talking with Jerry about this earlier I don't disagree with this approach, but think it might be somewhat limiting as far as future scenarios if you make it a system-level rule as opposed to a scenario-level rule. I definitely think it's a unique and positive approach to dealing with the disruptive effects of artillery; I just worry that it might impair the ability of someone to use FBF as a basis for, say, an Omaha Beach or Bagration scenario. I am open to opinions though!

  2. Mark,

    I like the interdiction effect for artillery, but I don't think you want to completely rule out the ability for artillery to directly impact the battlefield, even at the engagement distances being portrayed in Fireball Forward. I've read plenty of accounts of US positions dropping artillery in very close to their own positions with the effect of not just slowing an enemy attack, but inficting damaging casualties. Such fires are inherently more dangerous and require opbservation of ranging shots or pre-arranged fire coordinates. It would be nice to have both options.
    Also, where do you see battalion mortars (US 81mm) in the scheme of things.

    I enjoyed my couple of games of FF at Fall In and look forward to the release of the rules

    Brian Cantwell