I wanted the rules to reflect a very detailed level of play. I planned The Face of Battle to be an advanced tactical game with plenty of rules and rule options. Experienced commanders should be able to lead their forces as best as they can, without loopholes or missing rules.
The game should cover all aspects if infantry and vehicle combat during World War II.
I also tried to keep the abstraction in the rules to a minimum. In any game, there is a certain level of abstraction for various reasons. But at the skirmish level of play, a significant amount of detail is required.
I also did not want to have to look up rules very often. When I run a game, I only use the three reference tables (MRT, FRT, and ERT). The rules are a reference. The rules should be logical and follow common sense. Every action should not have to be looked up in the rulebook. If you think a situation should resolve a certain way, the rules should reflect that thinking (at least in the majority of cases).
I did not try to cover every possible situation. I think players will be able to make the correct decision for any unwritten rule or event.
I have tried to limit the game mechanics from interfering with good player tactics.
Finally, I am not trying to obtain 100% realism. Certainly there are historical references, details and influences in the game design and mechanics. I will leave the judging of "How realistic is The Face of Battle?" to each player.
I recommend first-time players read the rules and get a general feel for the game. Each player should then command one squad or two vehicles. As players get more familiar with the mechanics, they can usually handle more units; however, the fewer units a player controls, the faster the game moves.
The amount of real time a turn represents is not relevant. During the game design, a set amount of time was used to determine the weapon rates of fire and movement. I did feel a need to quantify the game time.
There may be some gamers who insist that ranges be provided for all scales. I do not feel the need to provide different ranges and special tables based merely on the figure scale. In most figure scales the ground scale doesn't change enough to warrant the extra charts. For those that wish to have ranges to match the figure scale, please download the charts from the web site.
I have included conversion tables in this section to help anyone interested in combining models from different manufacturers. I recommend purchasing the same vehicles from the same manufacturer. The difference between manufacturers can be large and the same vehicle of different sizes on the gaming table will look odd.
The label to identify vehicles may be placed on the top or bottom of the vehicle. Making the vehicle distinct through equipment, unit numbers, etc, will enhance the look of the miniature without having to place a label on it.
On Rules of Play
Playing a miniatures game takes a lot of preparation. There are numerous tasks to perform prior to playing the game. I suggest setting aside different periods of time for painting figures, rule preparation, scenario design and so on.
Players used to a set turn (you-go-I-go) style of gaming may be at first hesitant or turned off by the randomness of the combat turn using cards. To reflect the scope and feel of skirmish wargaming, and to force quick decisions, actions or reaction, I needed a sophisticated yet playable system to determine the sequence of events. The tried and true, you move, I move, you fire, I fire, typical combat rounds would not give the feel of a moving and chaotic close combat battle situation. As each figure represents one soldier, a method was needed to determine when that soldier could act. The game uses cards to determine the actions that each individual soldier may take during the course of one turn. Based on the type of unit (green to elite), each soldier has a certain amount of action cards. A raw soldier will have one card, and an elite soldier will have three. The role of the soldier is not important when determining the number of cards. For example, a green tank driver will have one card just as a green infantry soldier has one card.
Some people would argue that a tactical game could not rely on a random mechanic to ensure playability, or at least keep the tactical feel to it. If you rely so heavily on knowing exactly when a man can move or fire, than I think you have been absorbed by the game mechanics, and not fighting a battle. Skilled tacticians, more experienced players, and solid attacks and defenses will win battles, not definitive sequence of play.
I do like the card sequence as it keeps most confrontational play situations clearly defined. When did the soldier move? When can my gunner fire? And so on. You know exactly when things happen. Traditional turn based games usually have mechanics that appear as oddities to handle special situations. Hopefully these kinds of rules are unnecessary in the card-based game.
I personally like the random sequence of play achieved with card-based mechanics. The random actions preset the player with a few more decisions. Do I risk running my guy across the field? Will he get shot before he makes it to the other side? In a standard move/fire/move/fire sequence of events, the player can foresee more and react accordingly with a structured battle. A method around this is to allow opportunity fire. That is, a unit is waiting for a target, and then fires if a target is present. To me, that is a way around a rigid sequence. In this game, the player makes an educated tactical call for each action. They will not know for sure that the action will succeed exactly as planned. Nor are their unnecessary rules (like opportunity fire) to allow an opposing player options to prevent an action.
Soldiers and battle plans are not perfect.
Due to the scale and desired simulation, the counters are necessary to represent the states of the individual soldier. I do not like many counters during play, let alone counters on the battlefield. But counters do provide an easy method to keep track of information. Counters are also visible and are clear indicators of information. This may be necessary for club, convention or tournament games. If you do not like counters, keep track of the information, morale levels, and wounds on the squad sheet or another piece of paper. This will reduce the clutter on the playing field. You may also want to make or purchase playing pieces that represent counters. For example, many miniatures' manufacturers will make wounded or killed in action soldiers. Finally, alternate unit identification on the figure base may be used to mark various play conditions.
During numerous gaming sessions, I have seen many players assume a leader does their actions on the leadership card. They don't. They go on a regular soldier card. Try not to forget this.
I purposely left out a retreating result from a morale event check or capitulation event. I felt it was up to the player to get his or her forces out of an overwhelming situation. Although some players will fight their units to the death, this type of play is discouraged (unless instructed by the scenario or victory conditions). What could have been a face-saving marginal loss quickly turns into a decisive victory for the opposing player if your units stay and fight to the death. The choice is yours.
On Line of Sight and Spotting
The degree to which these rules are implemented will be up to the players. Spotting can bog down games but sometimes is a necessary evil.
Due to the cards, some players may find it annoying and unrealistic that certain soldiers may move out of sequence with other soldiers. I think that if you look at the results at the end of one turn, you will find that a charging squad of soldiers with the same combat initiative will arrive together. Don't get hung up on the fact that one is ahead of another. It is the end result that counts.
The use of terrain is the key to survival. Getting caught in the open is instant death. I do not like pre-defined forests or jungles. I prefer individual trees and lichen to represent actual trees and shrubs. I have included the forest and jungle rules for players that prefer that level of abstraction.
On Firearm Combat
Here is one area I felt some level of abstraction was required. One of the first questions asked is "Why is firing a weapon not a skill check?" In the first draft of the game, firing a weapon was a skill check. A second mechanic resolved wounds. The problem; if a soldier successfully hit the target, all kinds of arguments would arise concerning the amount of damage inflicted. "What do you mean I hit him with an anti-tank rifle and he was only scratched?" By combining the to-hit and damage roll into one 1d100 dice roll, I believe this is a better combat mechanic.
I also think the ranges for weapons, although may appear to be limited, are ideal for the game and scale. Soldiers were reluctant to shoot without a specific target for fear of revealing their own position. Therefore players should try not to fire when the odds of inflicting damage are low.
Not all actions are covered in the Action section. Players should use the rules as a guideline for actions or events not covered by that section.
Large calibre guns (e.g. tank main armament), and light anti-tank weapons do not roll a to-hit skill check. Like firearm combat, a level of abstraction was introduced. Direct fire explosions use the ERT like firearm combat use the FRT.
On Vehicle Combat
There are a lot of factors in vehicle combat that could not be abstracted into a single resolution system (like the ERT and FRT). A skill check is used to determine if the gunner hit the target vehicle and a separate resolution system is used to determine the damage. I like detailed damage tables for vehicles since many vehicles were recoverable.
On The Game Construction Kit
The CGK came about as a result of many different play sessions. In these sessions certain levels of preparation, complexity and game activity necessitated different organizations of the cards. I felt it was best to pass on these findings to the players.