Why we do what we do in The Last Hundred Yards– In these articles we discuss why we do what we do regarding the various systems and mechanics used in the LHY. On this occasion we will discuss the Time Lapse, Fire and Maneuver systems. To see the first article in this series, check out The Last Hundred Yards Designer’s Notes: Intro, Initiative, and Activation Cycle on InsideGMT.
Although technically the LHY does not employ game turns, it uses a mechanic called “Time Lapse” where at the end of each “game turn” players make a die roll to determine how much time has lapsed. Depending on the die roll, Time Lapse may vary from two to five minutes. One might ask, “How can time vary, isn’t time constant?” It is my proposition that although in truth time is constant, to a soldier in the midst of a firefight it is not. In one game turn a squad may maneuver up to 150 meters (maneuver allowance of 3 MP at 50 meters per hex) in two minutes and yet in another turn it might be five minutes to maneuver the same distance. Again, why you ask. Units maneuvering while under fire do so in fits and spurts – dashing from one position to the next encountering numerous interruptions. For the soldier time may seem to slow down or speed up depending what’s happening at the moment. The amount of time required to advance over a particular distance will vary depending on enemy resistance. As a result, time is a variable that a Leader must contend with in combat.
The Time Lapse mechanic serves several functions in the LHY. It is a major factor in determining the level of victory and a measure of how well a player is doing at any given time. Time Lapse is also a factor when a Platoon Leader becomes a casualty in determining how soon someone will take over his command. A combat leader has to deal with constant interruptions and delays caused by both friends and enemies while attempting to meet his objective. Communication interruptions, lost units, casualties, unexpected enemy fire, etc. may cause a leader to feel more or less ahead or behind his mission schedule. Thus, once the firefight starts time is an uncontrollable factor in a Combat Leader’s (and therefore a player’s) decisions. Players must take into account not only the distance to be traversed but also the interruptions and delays that can occur during combat. Therefore the higher the Time Lapse die roll, the more time passes and the player begins to feel he is falling behind schedule. Players must continually measure their mission progress, deciding whether they are ahead or behind where they need to be and how much risk to take to achieve their objectives.
Fire and Maneuver
Firefights at the platoon and company level were never a continuous stream of fire but generally involved sporadic eruptions of violence interspersed with short pauses. Units maneuvering while under fire did so in fits and spurts – dashing from one position to the next. To model this type of simultaneous fire and maneuver action in a board game is difficult at best. My objective was to create an interactive fire and maneuver system that was simple but realistic, focused on the tactical decisions of the players and with as few die rolls as possible.
Although a squad level game, the primary combat formation in the LHY is the platoon. The biggest question was how to create a model where fire and maneuver actions occur simultaneously for some, but not all, platoons in a single Game Turn. This is done within the Activation Cycle, which was discussed in the previous article. When one or more platoons are activated together, all the actions and subsequent reactions of the activated platoons as well as the enemy’s reaction occur simultaneously within a single Activation Cycle. For example, the Company Commander orders the 1st platoon to maneuver into a position to pin and distract the enemy while the 2nd platoon provides cover fire. This would represent a single Activation Cycle with all actions and subsequent reactions occurring simultaneously. Similarly, in a subsequent Activation Cycle of the same Game Turn when the 3rd platoon maneuvers into a position to flank or encircle the enemy, all the actions and reactions of the subsequent activation simultaneously.
The fire mechanics in LHY are based on the premise that during the short span of a few minutes of a game turn, the fire and attention of a firing unit are focused on a specific enemy unit conducting an action in the firing unit’s LOS. All fire actions occur during the Activation Phase but are not resolved until the following Fire Resolution Phase after all fire and maneuver actions have been completed. Therefore players will not know the results until after all fire and maneuver have occurred and therefore could not adjust their play based on the fire results.
To reflect this, I chose to use a mechanic where Fire Attack Die Roll Modifier markers (DRM markers) are used to represent the net effect of a unit’s fire on its target. There are three types of DRM markers used in the LHY. Small Arms DRM (SADRM) markers are green and represent small arms fire against non-vehicular units in a particular hex at the time of fire. Anti-Tank DRM (ATDRM) markers are yellow and represent anti-tank fire against a vehicle or Towed Gun. Mortar DRM (MDRM) markers are red and affect all units in a hex. Each time an enemy unit suffers a fire attack; the appropriate (DRM) marker is placed on the enemy unit or hex. A DRM marker is used for each and every single fire attack and may be positive or negative depending on the various die roll modifiers affecting the firing or defending unit at the time of fire.
DRM markers have varying effects depending on the type of fire and the target. Units marked with SADRM or ATDRM markers may still conduct fire and maneuver actions normally but are subject to a detrimental DRM because the firer is suppressed. Non-vehicular units marked with a MDRM marker are considered pinned and may not fire or maneuver, whereas vehicular units are not considered pinned due to a MDRM marker.
Fire resolution in the LHY is fast and simple. The firing player simply rolls a d10 for each DRM marker on a defending unit, or hex if small arms fire, adding or subtracting the DRM of the DRM marker to the die roll. The single net result most detrimental to the defender is used and all others are ignored. If the net result is greater than the defender’s defensive value the defending unit is disrupted, casualty reduced or destroyed depending on the units type and circumstances.
The maneuver mechanics in the LHY are typical of most tactical games in that units have a maneuver allowance and expend MP to enter a hex. What is not typical is that LHY provides a player a toolbox of various maneuvers he can use depending on the tactical situation, simulating the behavior and decisions of an individual leader or tank commander in combat situations. For example, in addition to the normal maneuver action, infantry units may breakdown or combine any time during a maneuver (helpful when encircling an enemy), assault (entering an enemy occupied hex), feint or withdraw. Vehicular units have even more options including Shoot & Scoot, Halt & Fire, Reverse (good for avoiding enfilade), overrun, transport, combined assault and withdrawal. I wanted a player to feel what it might be like to spend some time in a combat leader’s boots.
But the most important aspect of maneuver in the LHY is the understanding that if the enemy did not see you maneuver he will not be able to react. This provides a whole new dimension in the use of cover when approaching an enemy position. In a real life situation, a platoon leader charged with taking an enemy position will make every effort to use every bit terrain he can to get as close to the enemy as possible without being spotted. In the LHY, players must use the same caution when approaching an enemy position.