Wednesday, 15 November 2006

Review: I Ain't Been Shot, Mum

I Ain't Been Shot, Mum (IABSM) is a set of World War 2 rules by Richard Clarke and Nick Skinner of the Too Fat Lardies.
The rules are based on a 1:1 figure:man ratio, with the smallest manoeuvre unit being the section and placing the player at Company commander level or above.
Turn sequence
The turn sequence is dictated through a card system with each platoon, each "Big Man" having a card combined with various special cards. In addition there is the "Tea Break" card which, when drawn, indicated the end of the turn; however, units which have not yet fired and have a target in short range may then fire. The Tea Break card means that not every unit will be able to act each turn.
You will have noticed the reference to Big Man this is Lardies shorthand for the natural leaders within a company who are able to galvanise their fellow soldiers into action. Their inate command ability is represented by having their own card so a unit with a Big Man attached doubles their opportunity to activate during any turn.
The special cards include bonus moves, bonus firing, ammunition shortages, national characteristics (e.g. human wave attacks) etc. These cards are theatre and scenario specific.
Once active a unit may utilise their "Initiative Dice" in order to perform actions (spotting, movement, firing etc.). The number of Initiative Dice (d6) is determined by the quality of the troops and is gradually reduced as a unit takes casualties.
The rules system provides for the use of "Blinds" where units have not yet been spotted. These are card templates which can conceal one or more or, indeed, no units and must be the subject of a successful spotting roll or activate in order to be revealed. Any cover may also be treated as a blind and hence be hiding troops deplayed in concealment.
A separate Blinds Move card is used in the deck and the cards for the units concealed are kept to one side and only inserted into the pack when the unit is revealed. This system enables some greater co-ordination of units before they fully deploy and maintains an element of the fog of war. Additionally Blinds may perform any action that a unit can do other than firing (in which case they must be revealed).
Spotting is achieved by sacrificing one Initiative Dice in order to make each spotting roll. The target number for the spotting roll is an example of the Lardies approach to these issues. Rather than provide a prescriptive list of modifiers they provide examples of factors which may make spotting easier or more difficult alogn with typical target numbers (e.g. a particularly easy spot will require a 3 or 4 on a 2d6, with ahard spot around 11). The players or umpire then need to determine the number and thus whether the units revealed or the blind removed. This may no appeal to all gamers but I have found it provides a much more flexible approach than a precriptive list.
Movement is determined by allocating a number of Initiative Dice, rolling them and then moving that number of inches. Units who have take sufficient casualties to lose their Initiative Dice may make a Guts Test to see if they may move or must rely on a Big Man (who has an Initiative Dice of his own) to help them. Modifiers are provided to allow for different terrain types.
Firing is determined by the number of Initiative Dice allocated to it. It does not need to take place when a unit's card turns up as the dice may be reserved for use later in the turn when the attached Big Man's card turns up or on the Tea Break card.
As with spotting th system is not prescriptive it requires the players to agree as to whether the situation provides a Good, OK or Poor shot and different columns on the firing table are applied. Range bands are also included. The result is specified as a number of potential casualties and may also make the unit pinned (no move but may fire) or suppressed (no move or firing) for the remainder of the turn. Potential casualties are the diced for to determine whether they were a near miss, wound or indeed dead. "Wounds" is more Lardies shorthand and actually means loss of unit cohesion and is a negative modifier to the unit's Initiative Dice. These "Wounds" may be removed by a Big Man.
Close Combat
This is achieved by each side rolling 1d6 per figure with the total number of dice for each unit being modified for troop quality, Big Men, heavy weapons, wounds, suppression etc. A "six and you're dead" approach is then used with the overall result being determined by the difference in casualties.
For the most part morale is built into the system through the Initiative Dice being reduced as casualties are suffered; however, where the players agree a specific morale test is required due to the particular circumstances a specific roll of 2d6 versus the number of casualties suffered may be made. Again a flexible approach is provided with the players agreeing any positive or negative factors which should be taken into account (examples are provided) and ultimately agreeing the effect of the result.
Optional rules
Various optional rules are provided to address Tank Quirks, MG Sustained Fire, National Characteristics etc.
Vehicles, Artillery etc.
Rules are provided for all these but I have concentrated on the infantry to better communicate the basic mechanisms as armour, artillery etc. all follow similar principles.

The rules are clearly layed out in sections with a table of contents and some examples. There are no graphics and, other than the covers, the rules are in black and white. This obviously has benefits if your are buying the .pdf option and printing it yourself. A few more examples might be beneficial but overall the presentation is good.
The Lardies strapline is "playing the period, not the rules" and these rules are an excellent example of this approach in that they provide a framework for play rather than having a prescriptive approach thus meaning that player should win through the use of appropriate tactics rather than relying on obscure references to or inappropriate application of rules. I believe these rules achieve the aim.
IABSM are not rules for everyone. If you like to have total control with every unit moving on every turn then the initiative system will not be for you. If you like a prescriptive set of modifiers for spotting, firing or morale rather than the common sense/by agreement approach adopted by IABSM then you will probably not like these rules. But if you want a good set of World War 2 rules for this level of combat then I highly recommend IABSM. With the unpredictability of unit movement the best use of Big Men becomes a real challenge along with the need for a more complex level of planning which is appropriate for the level of command being represented. They have become firm favourites of mine and work equally well in two or multi-player games. The rules are available in both hard copy and .pdf format from the Too Fat Lardies for £11.25 and £6.00 respectively. A wide range of theatre specific supplements are available along with scenario booklets.

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