Arc of Fire: Squad to Company Level Infantry and Armor Battles from 1900 to 2000
Skirmish gaming is great! When each figure represents one man, you really feel the pain when one of your guys gets hit, you cheer them on when they bravely pass their morale tests, punch the air when they knock out that enemy machine-gunner. In the best skirmish games, you can truly picture the action and each episode in the battle tells a story.
Arc of Fire (AoF) is intended for games employing forces up to company level, with from one squad to three platoons on each side using 10mm-28mm miniatures, often with armor or artillery support. One of the prime design goals of AoF was to find a level of detail that was fun and easy, but still captured the flavor of skirmish gaming. If rifle magazine capacities, tanks’ power-to-weight ratios, or the quantity of high explosive in particular shells are the type of factors you really want in a game, you should probably not be looking at this book. The basic assumption of AoF is that leadership, training, organization and motivation are more important than minor technological advantages in deciding who wins. By concentrating on these rather than on ‘kit’, AoF produces a fast and exciting game that is more realistic than many games that obsess about technical detail.
Rules are very much like art, everyone has a different opinion about what they like and dislike. Since no ruleset can cover all possibilities that are encountered on the wargaming table, we encourage gamers to adapt these rules to their satisfaction and/or to disagree with these rules at any juncture. In fact, we assume most players will evolve a set of “house rules” that will add detail to the basic rules presented here.
The genesis of AoF came from a night in Scott’s basement with Chris and Nick discussing how cool it would be if we could convert the basic mechanics of Chris’s brigade-level rules, TAC:WWII to skirmish gaming…the rest is history. The authors would like to thank Tom Ballou, Nick Murray, Mark Fastoso, Steve Gusky, Ed Stewart, Mike LaVigne, Nathan Forney, John Hingley-Hickson, Mike Brown, John Briggs, and Richard Crawley, without whose encouragement and support these rules would not have been written (and Tori Fisher and Glenda Pringle for their tolerance!). Game On!
Ground scale: 1” = Approximately 5-10yards
Time scale: Approximately 5-30 seconds per card, though time can vary
Figure scale: For use with 10mm-28mm miniatures
Troop scale: 1:1, one figure represents one individual, one vehicle represents one vehicle. The basic unit in the game is an infantry squad or vehicle platoon.
Scale note: Players with large playing areas or those using 25mm or 28mm miniatures may wish to double the scale for all measurements in this game; doing so will have no effect on game-play as long as all measurements (including deviation distances [use d8 and d12] and blast radii) are doubled. Quick reference sheets with double ranges are provided in the back of this book and may be photocopied for use by players.
Miniatures representing troops
4-sided die (d4), for determining direct fire HE deviation distance
6-sided die (d6), with directional arrows (painted or in marker) on each face, in addition to numbers, for determining direction of deviation for direct fire HE and direction and distance for artillery deviation
10-sided dice (d10)
Tape measure or other measuring device
Deck of playing cards
Counters, magnetic dots, miniatures, pipe-cleaner strips or similar to mark unit and element status
Cotton wool (for marking knocked out vehicles and smoke screens)
Small pieces of pipe-cleaner (optional: for marking moving vehicles)
GENERAL FORMAT NOTES
In these rules, “n” is defined as the number or greater that a player needs to roll on a ten-sided die (d10). In the context of firing, the base “n” may refer to the base number or greater, rolled on a d10, to have an effect on a target; this number is identified by looking at the Infantry or Heavy Weapons Charts and cross indexing the weapon type and range to target. The final “n” (in the context of firing) may refer to the modified base “n” or the final “to-hit” number for the firing. The acronym “AFV” is used several times in these rules to refer to “Armored Fighting Vehicles” to differentiate them from unarmored vehicles.
APPENDIX C - DESIGNER’S NOTES
“…three fourths of those things upon which actions in war must be
calculated are hidden more or less in clouds of great uncertainty.”
Creating a game is always a trade-off between playability and reflecting realism. We made many assumptions in the development of this game to make play easier and more efficient, sometimes at the expense of detail and realism. Our objective in writing these designer’s notes is to share some of our design assumptions and our rationale about some design decisions.
One of the first things we would like to express is that we view these rules as a framework for game-play. We assume that players and groups will create house-rules to cover gaps we have left in this rule set intentionally and unintentionally. Moreover, we encourage house-rules as they provide the customization that many game groups require to have good skirmish-level games. However, we strongly recommend that individuals and groups document their house-rules both to avoid unnecessary arguments and to provide a clear division between the “official” rules in this book, and the “house-rules”.
TAC Modes are probably the systematic heart of the game and its point of greatest departure from conventional skirmish-level games. TAC Modes provide an efficient way to represent the tactical posture of a unit. Though modes generalize a tactical stance over all elements within a unit, we think this is an entirely reasonable way to streamline play, even at the skirmish-level. In addition we think of modes as a representation of the success or failure of the unit’s commander in communicating clear objectives to his unit. The number of elements assigned to a unit should consider not only the overall number of elements in the game but also the terrain of the scenario. Players will find that in urban terrain elements can become separated by buildings and rubble and should therefore be split up in to more and smaller units. In open terrain, it is very possible to have huge units, even up to companies activated by one pair of cards. In summary, for urban combat scenarios or scenarios with small numbers of elements, we encourage more units (e.g., divide squads into fire-teams or even several fire-teams); for larger open-terrain scenarios and scenarios with inferior troops (…Russian hordes…) we recommend only a few units (e.g., one card per squad or even one card per Platoon).
The assignment of cards for unit activation was adopted to reflect the often skewed timelines of combat and the fact that luck and fog-of-war often play as large a role as anything else. We’ve borrowed this unique game mechanic from legendary and pioneering games like The Sword and the Flame and other early miniatures games. We chose to further break-up unit movement & firing by representing units with two cards per turn, increasing the chance that any unit will be interrupted in some endeavor by an enemy unit. Since Arc of Fire uses two cards per turn to activate each unit, players should beware not to create too many units in any game. It is perfectly acceptable for players, in large games, to group a set of units and activate them under one pair of cards. The authors actually prefer this arrangement as a way to further reflect particularly inflexible command structures, such as Soviet Platoons in the Winter War of 1939-40.
In the design of this game, we really took a look at spotting. We assume that infantry in Defense Mode (and therefore not moving) are very difficult to see, even in the open. We assume this partially because even “open” terrain has folds in the ground and small concealment that infantry will naturally gravitate to. In addition, spotting from enclosed vehicles, such as tanks, is very difficult even under ideal conditions (for those who don’t believe us, try spending some time in the cut-out Panzer III at the Bovington Tank Museum and try looking around…). We assume that one of the main advantages of open-topped vehicles is that the crew can quickly take spotting checks. The spotting chart not only considers the Mode of the spotter, but also the mode of the target; this is very important since we assume targets in Defense Mode are not moving, while targets in Advance or Confused Mode are moving or at least preparing to move or milling about. As a result of our assumptions about TAC mode and movement, there was no need to consider movement as an additional variable on the spotting chart.
Players will quickly notice that this set of rules does not include a “prone” status for infantrymen. Players should note that the authors have made a key assumption in these rules: we assume that infantry are always using the best cover and are prone when practicable but are in a position to fire their weapons. In addition, the different TAC modes reflect the combat stance of an infantryman; infantry in Defense Mode are more likely to be prone. The result of this assumption is that infantry that are not firing or moving, even in the open, are very difficult to spot. In addition, regardless of cover, infantry can be hit since it is assumed they are in a position to fire (leaning over a wall, at a window, etc). The result is a game where infantry can remain hidden longer and are more vulnerable to fire than other skirmish-level games. The authors think the result is a quicker game that still creates a realistic gaming experience (we hope you agree).
Similar to our choice to exclude prone status for infantry was our decision to model hand-to-hand combat through an abstraction we call Close Combat. While figures actually must touch to enter Close Combat, we assume this is a practical method to allocate figures for combat at very close ranges. So, while figures may be touching in Arc of Fire they are not necessarily in actual hand-to-hand combat. They might easily be exchanging gunfire at very close range and around corners, furniture or some similar cover. The use of the “Grenades and Close Combat” rule considers the use of grenades to prepare a position prior to attacking it; this is why the attacker has the option of reducing the effect of the defender’s die roll in Close Combat. Grenade attacks against Hard Targets like bunkers and AFVs are handled by the Close Attack vs. Hard Targets & Vehicles rules.
Another major area for discussion with our playtesters was direct fire HE and HE blast areas. For these rules, we assume that the accuracy of a direct fire HE round diminishes the further the target is from the firer; moreover (and more importantly) the firer has a very difficult time detecting the exact location of distributed infantry targets, like a squad of infantrymen. We assume that the firer may see a few of the target at any one time, but seldom will see the whole group and thereby be able to clearly judge the “center” of the target. This is the primary reasoning behind our use of the Soft Target “n” value when firing HE at non-vehicular targets. On the other hand, vehicles are much easier to see and are concentrated targets, this is the reasoning behind using the Hard Target “n” value when firing at vehicles and bunkers. We further assume that when an HE round is “on target” (“n” or greater) this result may not mean that the round actually hit the exact target point; we simply assume that this round has hit near this point (as opposed to deviating from it). Players may note that the further the firer is from the soft target, the less effective the HE round blast will be; we are not assuming a decrease in the power of the HE round, we are assuming a decrease in the accuracy of the fire and observation of the target.
The artillery fire resolution in this game is simplified when compared to actual artillery procedures; we have deliberately generalized the procedure in order to cover as broad a spectrum of artillery capabilities as possible. Players may also note the size of the artillery blast areas; based on our research these radii reflect the average area where infantry can be affected by shrapnel and blast. The actual shape of artillery blast patterns are not always round (in fact they seldom are); for game purposes we have abstracted a simpler blast pattern based on the minimum blast area for each weapon. Players may also note that artillery is nearly ineffective against hard targets. We believe the number of shells required to destroy an average hard target with indirect fire far exceeds the scope of the game. As always, players should feel free to create any house-rules they see fit.
Generally, we play with as few markers on the game table as possible. One of the ways we cut back on the use of bulky counters is to use markers that are similar in form to the object they represent. For example, we use “dead” figures to mark the location of figures KIA, we can then use these “dead” markers to count at the end of the game for victory determination. In addition, most of our figures have steel bases (washers or steel squares); we use magnetic dots of various colors to mark wounds, TAC Mode (on the leader of a unit only), broken soldiers, etc. Magnetic dots can be easily made by putting colored tape over magnetic material, then putting the taped material through a hole-punch. Colored cotton can also be invaluable for marking neutralized, immobilized and knocked-out vehicles.
The addition of optional rules to detail individual injuries and AFV critical hits were added later in development to quench our desire to play smaller scenarios with lots of detail. Players should feel free to edit these tables to their house-rules as they desire.
One final assumption: generally, we believe that “luck” is a major if not THE major player on the battlefield. The more research we do, the more we believe this assertion. Some players may be interested in the intimate details of armor thickness and penetration; we believe that these laboratory results are seldom seen on the modern battlefield. The interaction of a tree, shovel, cable, tool or some other object could easily invalidate the results of all that careful calculation. In short, if a variable does not have at least a 10% chance to change a combat/morale result, it was not considered in these rules (hence our choice in selecting a d10 as the basic die for use). We simply assume that it would not be worth considering less significant variables as they are numerous and potentially not definable in the context of a playable system. Further, for every lesser variable we might identify, there are probably several we have inadvertently not included.
Arc of Fire was designed with the idea that it would be compatible with most conflicts from 1900 to beyond 2000. This said, most of our playtesting was done using scenarios from WWI, WWII, Vietnam and African Wars. We encourage players to create house rules and other rules and charts that would allow the basic system described in these pages to be further extended to other conflicts and times. We welcome any suggestions along these lines for later editions of these rules. In addition, over time we hope to publish several short supplements that will focus on rule modifications and additions regarding specific campaigns of the 19th, 20th and 21st Centuries.
In summary, we very much hope you enjoy playing Arc of Fire as much as we have enjoyed creating it. Any comments, corrections or suggestions are welcome. Have fun, GAME ON!