Sunday 3 March 2013

Memoir '44, Megablitz and the 'Bigger Picture'

Memoir '44 - from the stable of Richard Borg and part of the Command and Colours series of games

It occurred to me whilst I was fighting Operation Market Garden (I refuse on principle to abbreviate this to OMG....) that the scale at which I was fighting made a nonsense of thinking about purely tactical considerations. All of the features that are so important at a tactical level - cover, positional awareness, equipment and training (and command of course) etc, are less so when one moves up the command level. Consider the action I just fought as an example. Taking the British Airborne at Arnhem as the benchmark the scenario had 6 units of 4 infantry figures that were accorded 'special forces' status. This meant that they were able to move 2 hexes and battle rather than just the one. They also had the use of a special rule being British and Commonwealth troops that were able to battle back when reduced to a single figure.

In the game itself there was no mention of machine guns, PIATs, supporting mortars or anti tank artillery. All of this is swept up into the 'infantry unit' category employed by the game. That is fair enough and I have no problem given the scale of the action being played. Major terrain features played a part but none of the stone wall, hedge or reverse slope so beloved of hull down tankies or Napoleonic British in Spain. Our considerations are at a much higher level.

So this got me thinking.

If the games that I want to play are pitched at what can only be described as the Operational Level (the movements of brigades and divisions rather than platoons, companies and battalions) why do I need to worry about such things as battalion support machine guns, mortars or anti tank guns?

The simple answer is that I do not. I only need to consider representing infantry, artillery and vehicles of varying types because all the smaller stuff should be absorbed in the greater scheme of things.

Megablitz by Tim Gow - doing exactly what it says on the tin, or rather, cover....;-)

This line of thinking then led me to look at my much thumbed (but sadly never used) copy of Megablitz, by Tim Gow of Megablitz and More fame.

These rules are designed to fight large actions during WW2 and use, as an example, a base of a few infantry figures to represent a battalion. Support weapons feature if they are present in a large enough concentration to be worthy of inclusion - so forget anti tank rifles and such like or section light machine guns! This is heady stuff, at least it is for me.

The rules represent a fusion of traditional wargame and boardgame mechanics so in effect, you have what is essentially a free table board war game. Which is coincidentally the type of game I spent most of last year fighting, albeit on a grid and with wooden blocks. Taken to its logical conclusion both of these systems represent a level of war game that for me has the most appeal - the operational art of war.

I have a feeling that I may have just answered a very long and complex question of what I do and how I do it. I think that Memoir '44 has the operational level of war game pitched at the right sort of level but in a highly abstract and, dare I say, 'gamey' way. I now believe that very few tweaks are needed to make the core rules much more wargames like in their outlook and indeed, the various official additional rules added in the various expansions during the life of the game reflect this.

7th Armoured Division, Megablitz style - from the enormous collection of Tim Gow

The picture above says it all really - this is a complete armoured division in 20mm for use with a set of rules that are designed specifically to present the gamer with the challenges faced at that particular level of command.

That is what I want to do and that is how I am going to tackle the Middle East project from the point of view of the command level to be fought at.

Bring it on I say - or rather, roll on Skirmish for the rest of my 20mm kit!


Sean said...

Great idea to use Mega Blitz. I can't seem to locate a copy for love nor money so I'll have to figure out how to contact Mr. Gow myself. I made an overture, but need to follow up.

David Crook said...

Hi Sean,

Tim is highly approachable and so you should be abe to get a hold of him via his blog. Caliver Books may have some copies kicking around.

My plan is to use the best bits of both and the bsing idea from Megablitz will certainly be the starting point!

All the best,