Overview

On this page Mike will answer game-related design questions. Feel free to send you questions to Mike at michael.ball@thefaceofbattle.com



Why is there no Opportunity Fire in The Face of Battle?

In TFoB there is no opportunity fire. At first many gamers find this odd since that is usually a standard rule in many games. I think someone on the list put it best - the cards ARE the opportunity. To those unfamiliar with the rules, there are two forces that may use a special type of fire - snipers and machinegun crews. Snipers may hold a card and play it at any time - in effect creating the uber-opportunity fire soldier. Also, targets are engaged half-way through there regular movement. So if a target was to cross an alley in front of a sniper he would still be able to shoot him. A machinegun crew may place a fire lane down an alley and immediately engage any target that crosses the lane, even when it is not their card. All other soldiers must follow the normal card sequence of events. The cards create the opportunity. Another note, soldiers usually have more than 1 card in the deck, most have 2, some have 3.

IMO, the opportunity to fire presents itself when a target wishes to engage the enemy. If I run into your LOS and stop to engage you, then there is a chance you will return fire on me before I fire. I have made a choice to engage you and presented myself as a target. Now, it is quite possible that the soldier waiting has already skipped by his cards. Such is the fortune of war.

Any other time it is pure luck to be able to engage an enemy avoiding to be fired upon. So, if I run across an alley way and you are waiting for someone to do so, is it entirely possible that I cross before you shot me - the opportunity is lost. But, if we both drew our cards (this does happen), then you would shoot me in mid-stride.

I did suggest to the list as an optional rule that a leader may hold a leadership card (like a sniper) and play it anytime instead of drawing from the deck. This may satisfy those people requiring such opportunistic actions.

Now, some gamers do not like the random action sequence since everything does not always work out as planned. But the reason I like it is because events in the game can happen that give that interesting battle situations - a soldier runs up to an anti-tank gun crew tosses a grenade and fires his SMG at the machinegun crew supporting it before they could react (true story). But most likely he will get engaged by one of the enemy soldiers - but maybe not.

Are the cards an exact representation of a battle? Maybe. Maybe not. It all depends on what is your expectation of how a skirmish/small force battle occurs.

Lets explore The Face of Battle:

"The one thing I'm interested in is the IGOUGO with opportunity fire system vs the random impulse movement system. I was trying to figure out how two teams of men would be able to interact if they were going down two intersecting alleys at right angles. One would cross the intersection to the other side. Then another would. without opportunity fire they could not fire at each other nor even run into each other. Or is this handled some unique way?"

As well:

Imagine that there is a figure at one end of an alley (A) and a figure at the other end (B). On the next card flip both A and B get their cards. B wants to move across the the alley to the other side while A attempts to cover the alley from his location. By rule B would move half of his movement, if at that point A still has LOS then he could shoot. (This is of course a simplified example and is not using the spotting rules just LOS.) The opportunity to do this was created by the cards. If this same example were used and B got a card and A did not then A just missed out and B was lucky that time. This creates a very real situation. Just because you see someone doesn't mean that you got a chance to get off a good shot. This is not to say that you couldn't abstract that concept in the game that maybe A did in some way get off a shot but it was so poorly aimed, in a moment of surprise and terror, that it just didn't need to be rolled for. The unreal situation would be to say that A could always have an opportunity to fire just because of a set, and unrealistic, OP fire rule. Snipers on the other hand can save a card to be used later. This models their job quite well. Their job is to sit and watch for targets. Remember that a single card flip represents a very short period of time.

Well examine the two soldiers in the alley. There are a lot of things that need to be known. Are they purposely looking for each other? Are they running from one area to another? Do they carry SMG's? For example, say the alley is 2" wide. The soldiers are 2" from the end and each carry a rifle. I also assume both are moving towards the intersection. Both are out of LOS with each other. If soldier's A card is drawn he enters the intersection. Soldier B is now in his LOS (and vice-versa). Soldier A can do two things movement-wise; continue to the other side of the alley and remain in LOS (in cover) or move completely out of LOS down the alley. Soldier B on his card can fire at A if A is in LOS or move to the corner of the alley and fire at A (in the back) on his next card. Upon entering the intersection A could have also engaged B in hand-to-hand or if he was carrying an SMG fire on A instead of continuing his move down the alley.

Now, if the both drew their cards prior to entering the alley, they would run into each other with these options: hand-to-hand, flee, or stop and fire on your next card, or if they had SMG's fire!

The question arises, what if B was waiting for someone to enter the alley. Rifle at the shoulder, finger on the trigger. So when A enters the alley, why did B not shoot him immediately? Again, I have to answer this with the sequence of cards. If you think that B should automatically shoot anything within his LOS, then perhaps some sort of additional rules are necessary (as another poster suggested). Or if you think the cards themselves are enough to achieve then end result (as I do), then no rule is necessary.

Finally targets crossing a waiting soldier may not be so lucky to have terrain blocking LOS for each begin and end move and may end their move in LOS. They will probably be shot.

We had a fantastic building battle (inside the Cassino in "Gamble at the Casino"). Lots of hallways, doors, rooms, etc. The question of opportunity fire never came up from any of the players.

Funny things happen in battle. To quote from the book Currahee! Page 100-101.

"We automatically spread out and fired as we ran through the fields, apple orchards and right up to the houses themselves. I saw my first Kraut running through the trees at an angle to our right flank. I stopped, took sight at him and squeezed the trigger. ... the German fell spun sideways and fell face first in the grass. Another Kraut stepped around the corner of a building, stopped and just stood there.... He was facing me. [the German was shot and killed]"
Why did he get to shoot first and not the Germans? There are so many examples of this kind of broken sequence.

Another Example from page 61; Courage on the Battlefield by Arthur Bishop (son of Billy):

"During a strong German counterattack on the 20th Canadian Infantry Battalion position on Hill 70, a forward Lewis machine-gun post received a direct hit from an enemy shell. The blast buried the gun and killed all but one of the crew. Thought he was not a gunner, Frederick Hobson dashed from his trench over to the post, dug the weapon out and helped the gunner to man it. By this time the enemy were advancing towards him and the gun jammed. Hobson left the gunner to clear the stoppage and then rushed ahead to face the Germans. With bayonet thrusts and by clubbing them with his rifle butt, he killed 15 of the enemy before a bullet ended his own life. By that time the Lewis gun was back in action and reinforcements had arrived to beat the enemy off. For this single-handed feat, Hobson received the Victoria Cross posthumously.

The germans must have watched Hobson slaughter their fellows, yet failed to react. This inability to act, even in self-preservation, is something that happens in war and is well reflected in the card system. Better soldiers are more likely to react, thus they have more cards in the deck.

The way The Face of Battle plays and how things all work out in the end is part of the overall design. You cannot simply look at a single card draw in isolation.