Wargames Rules 1925-1950 and 1950-2000 (WRG)
Playings; 3, twice in the Afghan mountains, 1985, once in the plains of Spain, 1936 (8 hours)
Although sold as 2 separate rules books these WRG offerings are the same system with much the same layout and wording. The 1925-1950 set should be thought of as the basic rules being considerably shorter and containing organisation lists for most WW2 armies. The modern set does include vehicle reference data for current vehicles, guns and armour but no higher organisation. Also lacking is any definition of how smaller weapons fall into set weapons categories, a few examples are given and it is up to the gamer to match up any other weapons with these examples. For instance an RPG7 is now a MIAT as is a Carl Gustav. Anyone not knowing what either of these is will be on shaky ground, high tech armies can be assumed to have the best on offer but building up 3rd World forces or 60s and 70s eras will entail a little inspired guessing.
Organisation details are crucial to play which makes their absence in 1950-2000 a problem. Models are organised as sub-units, units and formations, the formation being all of a player's troops. Units act under written orders which sub-units must follow unless they have different orders, which fouls up the concept of giving orders to units. This is the usual, form up here, move that way and attack there type of set up but an organisation's orders also affect what it can do.
Hub of the system is the mode, a category of action defined by orders, circumstance and training. It comes close to the concept of doctrine and basic training but is still rather free form, your Syrians do not have to sit in BTR60s until they all explode. If given an attack order all units and sub-units can do is attack, skirmish or dash then assault when close enough. Each of these 3 modes effects how models move and fire, skirmish is the most flexible allowing some supporting fire plus movement unfortunately, some poor troops cannot use skirmish. Attack is moving towards the objective with some limited effect fire to keep the defender's heads down. Dash makes you harder to hit but is slow and prevents firing, it represents dashing from bush to bush. Fine so far but if shot at the attackers may be forced to change to hold or dash orders which will slow up the assault. Infantry attacks regularly bog down to the attackers and defenders repeatedly pinning each other onto hold mode at about 100 to 200 yards. If this was not hard enough terrain can also affect mode, bad terrain will put any moving model into slow mode which also prevents fire. To attack through bad terrain (in Vietnam or Afghanistan this can be most of the table) a unit will have to skirmish with the moving models changing skirmish mode to slow mode, yes it is confusing.
The mode system is a fine idea but pretty creaky in practice. The lack of any clear rules on order transmission and radio nets adds to the problem. Naturally gamers will assume that defenders have intact telephone lines and that the attackers all have radios which are not being jammed. In other words units and sub-units will swap orders as and when required. In some cases this is essential if the mode system is to work. Consider a defender in hold mode, part of the line is badly pressed other areas are quiet, hold mode does not allow movement so the only way to shore up the line is change some orders from defend point A to defend point B. They will then up sticks and move in march mode (easy targets) to their new form up point and dig in. A better option would be change the reinforcing unit's orders to probe (specifying some reasonable directions) and play it by ear. The overall effect can work quite well solitaire or with an umpire and 2 players who respect the umpire (both of which I have tried successfully) but not so well with 2 players one of whom questions the rules (also spoken from experience).
Having got past the mode system the rules are refreshingly simple but note again that without understanding modes you are not going to get anywhere. A D6 is used for everything with only 1 case of needing a 7 to function (in that case a roll of 6 counts as partial success). Still present are the old, roll to see, roll to hit and roll again to see the effects of the hit systems. There is some compensation in that weapon and armour categories have been heavily bundled together resulting in fewer than usual rows on the tables. The acquisition rules make it hard to fire at distant moving objects but once they fire they become targets. At short ranges it is pointless looking at the sighting rules for groups which are repeatedly firing at each other such as lines of infantry at 300 yards. Heavy machine guns (like the 12.7" used on Russian vehicles) have a much greater range but if firing at extreme range will have difficulty spotting infantry targets even if these are shooting. Spotters come in useful in this situation, the rules as to who can spot for whom are needlessly complicated and jargon ridden. Another change is the absence of wads of modifiers, there are none for the effects of hit tables, few in other cases. This has the side-effect of reducing the differences between types of equipment, a moving AFV has the same penalty if equipped with IFCS or just plain stabilised. Although few, the modifiers for sighting suffer from the usual lack of clarity, consider this; +1 "If Acquirer is suppressed; or is an AFV that is both closed down and lacks DFCS, or whose commander is distracted by firing or loading this bound". There are no rules for buttoning up (automatic on suppression) so why the case on being closed down? The clause about being distracted will only matter where the commander has to fire or load as well as command. It could apply to a BMP gunner who when the squad is dismounted has to run the show, including giving orders to the driver, the word "commander" is ill chosen.
The introduction to these rules state that infantry are important and that good games can be had with infantry alone. This is not exactly true, an infantry stand represents half a squad, 2 ride in each APC, double that of most modern rules. It may be necessary to buy extra infantry stands to convert to the WRG norm, a company comes out at around 20 stands plus 10APCs and some mortars. A tank company would be 10 tanks, infantry organisations take up a lot more table space, cost more to buy and are cheaper in points so more are needed. Further problems arise from firing, a tank can fire up to 2 different weapons and as a result of fire will be hampered by suppression or neutralisation (roughly double suppression) or destroyed, no turret or track only hits. Infantry units will be able to fire with light weapons as a single shot plus another weapon if so equipped, in 6mm it can be hard to see who has the RPG at a distance of above 6" even if by chance exactly the right proportion of stands are available. In effect we have rows of infantry all rolling 1 or 2 dice, the hit tables make it very hard to kill infantry unless firing at close quarters. Usually the 1st shot will suppress or neutralise the target making it literally impossible to kill with infantry weapons above 1/2" away. The only way around this is to shell the blighters with something stronger or to fire LMGs to force the target into cover then blast them out with the rocket launcher, some good die rolling is involved here. The lack of lethality makes infantry : infantry conflicts die laden and lengthy.
There is little in the way of army level morale, defenders are impervious to morale effects until they are overrun, seeing friends nearby hoofing it will not affect their resolve. Infantry have to be flushed out bush by bush as in Vietnam rather than rounded up as in Kuwait. Attackers can be brought to stop by inflicting casualties and in extreme cases forced to run away. Even so unless they run off the table edge any unit can be rallied and the sight of friends advancing will cause a unit that has gone to ground to come out of its holes. These effects are more important for infantry groups because they are large enough to soak up casualties but remain a presence on the table. Smaller tank groups will lose a higher proportion with each knock out and are harder to hide in bushes.
The general effect is a some very good ideas which just about work but a lot of hard work for infantry dense conflicts. The back of the 1950-2000 set suggests recent tank heavy wars and this would be the best setting for the rules. By reducing modifiers and weapon classes equipment becomes similar and certain expected superiorities disappear. The M1A1 and T80 are much the same, compare this to MBT where a T80 could not penetrate the M1A1 armour frontally without resorting to a falling shot or firing a missile, the WRG rules allow penetration up to 1,500 yards. Sat in your Centurion in the Golan (1973) don't expect to take out many T55s in a fair fight because the Syrian tanks are better. Games of this conflict (Sands of War, Arab-Israeli Wars) traditionally represented the Golan as a turkey shoot. As always with modern games it is hard to say to what extent equipment or training share the blame and praise. To sum up, a pretty good training manual if you put the work in, Russian equipment seems rather too good probably to instil caution into our boys when they leave the classroom. You will not be able to shoot up Iraqis as in Sands of War.