Monday, 7 December 2009

To save or not to save … that is the question?

Over the past few days I have had plenty of time to think. I seem to have spent hours behind the wheel of my car driving to and from the hospital my father-in-law is in, or sitting in family rooms waiting to see him whilst numerous doctors and nurses ministered to his medical needs.

My thoughts turned to the recent play-test of the latest draft of my adaptation of Joseph Morschauser’s ‘Modern’ period wargames rules, and the points that had it had thrown up. The most important of these was the possible need for ‘saving throws’ for troops in cover.

Now I have never been a great advocate of the ‘saving throw’ mechanism. I always thought that if you got your basic mechanisms right – particularly the probability of something happening – there was no need for them to be used … and yet the fast, furious, and deadly combat that results for the use of Morschauser’s firing rules do seem to require something to tame the results down a bit. The options seem to be:
  • Reduce the D6 die scores needed to hit from 5 or 6 for most weapon types (or 4, 5, or 6 for all types of machine gun) to 6 (or 5 or 6)
  • Introduce a cover ‘factor’ of some sort into the rules
  • Use Morschauser’s Roster System, which give Units several ‘lives’ before they are destroyed
  • Use saving throws
Now all of Morschauser’s mechanisms are simple ones, and I wanted to keep to the spirit if not the word of his original rules. For that reason I rejected both reducing the die scores (such a change would skew the results away from what was originally intended) and the introduction of the ‘cover’ factor (I could not see how I could introduce this change without completely re-writing the rules; I also felt that it was not in keeping with the original rules). I was therefore left with two alternatives: Morschauser’s Roster System and introducing ‘saving throws’.

The obvious choice was to go with the Roster System. It was included in the original book – HOW TO PLAY WAR GAMES IN MINIATURE – and is designed to fit in with the original rules. However I have always found that players do not like writing things down or recording things on paper during battles, and for that reason I looked very long and hard at introducing ‘saving throws’. I then remembered that at various points in his book Morschauser repeats the mantra ...


... and that clinched it for me … I would introduce saving throws in the next draft of the rules.

My thoughts are that every unit that is hit by gunfire (but NOT Units destroyed during Close Combat) would be allowed a saving throw:
  • 6: Units in the open are not destroyed
  • 5 or 6: Units in soft cover (woods, built-up areas etc.) are not destroyed
  • 4, 5, or 6: Units in hard cover (trenches, pillboxes etc.) are not destroyed
Its advantages as a mechanism are that it is easy to remember, requires no recordkeeping, and is in keeping with Morschauser’s mantra.

The next play-test will show whether or not this is a good idea that should be included in the rules.

PS. As I was about to finish this blog entry it struck me that introducing a saving throw mechanism could also make it possible to take into account the different types of Tank Units that sides might field during a battle. For example:
  • 6: Light Tank Units are not destroyed
  • 5 or 6: Medium Tank Units are not destroyed
  • 4, 5, or 6: Heavy Tank Units are not destroyed
Something else for me to think about over the next few days.


  1. Hi Bob, I think the savings throw option is the way to go for sure and the varied roll for tank weights is also a very workable suggestion. I am eagerly looking forward to the next instalment!


  2. Ogrefencer,

    I intend to put my ideas down on paper later this morning ... other things permitting (Tuesday is my morning off work, but so far today it has involved a trip to the dentist and I have still got to go to the Post Office and Bank before midday!).

    All the best,


  3. Loat my internet connection just as I was sending a comment so my apologies if this is a duplication of content.

    There is already a mechanism to reduce a unit's melee strength if attacking uphill or over a stream. I prefer the idea of carrying that concept over to cover both for melee and shooting so that the effect of terrain is consistant.

    Saving throws work but they are a slippery slope, light tanks today...., but if you are going to use them, might be best to get rid of the -1 melee modifiers and apply the same saving throws in melee. Taking no account of cover in close combat might encourage banzai tacticts.

    To solve the other problem, the speed at which units diappear, another option is to increase the number of units in play so that each lost stand is less important but saving throws will work if the unit density stays low.

  4. Ross Mac,

    I try to keep away from having too many plus or minus 'factors' in the rules that I use because I find that players tend to forget them, and that if they don't they tend to slow down the resolution of comabt as players try to do the mental mathematics involved in their heads.

    As a result, I am going to give saving throws a go; if they don't work, I can always removed them!

    By the way, you make a good point about saving throws in Close Combat; I will look at including them now that you have pointed out the flaw in my thinking.

    What you say about using more Units on the tabletop to increase the time it takes before one side gets obliterated is also well made. My problem is space. I just don't have enough to get more Units into play; as a result I have had to find an alternate option - hence the choice of saving throws.

    Many thanks for your feedback,

    All the best,


  5. If you start thinking about differing throws for differing tanks weights, you'll be on to different numbers for different AT gun sizes next. Pretty soon it's not simple enough to remember, and then you're back to square one. (-: But as a limited scenario based modification, it would work. (E.g. WWII British vs Germans; all British guns are 75mm, differentiating between Mk IVs and Tigers would make sense, but mixing 6 pdrs, 75s, 17 pdrs, Mk IVs, Panthers and King Tigers would probably be a bit much.)

    The downside of the roster system is that it is irritating to track units by their identifying marks on the table, at least to me. Ross and I used a marker system with the Renaissance adaptation, which has it's own set of problems. I am intrigued, though, by the fact that the modern rules as written propose using a more complicated roster system. I've used the "4 across the board" with the ancients version, and it was ok (implemented with markers).

  6. Rob Dean,

    I had been concentrating so much in my mind on the benefits of saving throws for different types of Tank Unit that I had not realised that I was so close to the top of the slippery slope into complexity. I will now have a serious re-think about having different types of tank included in the saving throw system.

    Many thanks for pointing this out.

    The roster system looks like it provides an answer, but I just don’t like too much bookkeeping – even with markers – during games as people tend to ‘forget’ to do it.

    All the best,


  7. Hi Bob,

    Add one more vote for the saving throw mechanism. Simple. Quick. A decision is made and the game moves on.

    Ross and Rob make a good point about complexity creeping back in with tank and gun type.

    KISS says there are just tanks and anti-tank guns, and field guns and howitzers, etc. No calibers, no armor types. Perhaps saving throws should be "in cover" or "not in cover" to start with.

    I look forward to the next test game.

    Happy Holidays,


  8. Jim,

    After sitting – and thinking – in the inevitable traffic jam on the way home from work today I pretty well came to the same conclusion; one simple 'saving throw' for cover is all that is needed. I will resist the impulse to complicate the whole thing with different 'types' of Tank Unit, as it will inevitably lead to a whole list of extra factors needing to be added (or subtracted) every time players want to resolve the outcome of fire and/or Close Combat.

    I will be making this point in my next blog entry.

    All the best,



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