Waiting on Rommel.

Important note: the Honour ruleset, Rommel, is not just about North Africa or following Rommel’s campaigns. All the World War II years and theatres of the war are portrayed. The designer, Sam Mustafa, likes to entitle his rulesets using a particular leader and Rommel gets the honours!

My friend, Jeff, alerted me to this upcoming ruleset in his Gentlemanly Wargame blog. In addition to being a strong wargame fan, Jeff is a historian and ex-US Army. So I respect his “reconnaissance and intel”.

Sam’s goal with Rommel being to re-fight full-sized battles, like Great Battles of WWII, his ruleset scale is 1 stand = a company level (which places it above Command Decision‘s 1 stand = a platoon level). Since I am a big fan of GBoWWII, Rommel has a tall assignment to beat out its excellence. If Rommel is just about a day’s battle, then it will be short right there. GB excels at representing multi-day battles with features like reserves, supply, line of communications, redeployment and replacements. Rommel could be a good game but wouldn’t provide the “mini-campaign” that GB does.

Initially we were thinking that Rommel might be 1 stand = a battalion and I just now noticed on Sam’s forum that this idea is still active. Perhaps it will be an optional rule or a supplement that one must buy. The forum posts are not clear. I have never played a game at this scale—which really seems to be more of a boardgame. But gamers tend to want to play grandiose battles, so why not? At this battalion/stand scale, Bruce McFarlane has Division Commander, Bob Mackenzie has a free variant on Bloody Big Battles which he calls BBWW2B and Frank Chadwick has been working on game that’s been variously described as either Fast Attack or High Command with bits about it at the Command Decision Forum.

Sam takes the summer off in Europe so he has already sent the ruleset to the printers and will come back to put it up for sale in late August or September. He has only released bits and pieces so there’s more about Rommel at Sam’s News tab. Or at the Honour forum.

One of the unique features of the game is “Ops” which are tactics or conditions that the player can choose from to gain advantages. These vary by year of the war and each side may not have the same set of options.

RommelOpFile.jpegWhen looking through Rommel’s teaser material and the forum, I found an interesting discussion on base size—essentially the size is not relevant if it will fit in the grid squares you choose: the rules suggest a 6″ square grid (each square = 1 kilometer) and for the basic scenarios 4×6′ table. But you could just as easily use a 5″ grid so long as your troops fit. When in a battle the attacker moves into the defender’s grid square so with prepared positions, 9 stands/markers (3 attackers, 3 defenders and 3 prepared positions). The ruleset suggests 1×2″ stands but there is no reason (other than aesthetics) to re-base your minis to try Rommel… your grid can be whatever fits your stands. For example, my CD stands would work .5x.75″ and could use a much smaller grid like 3×3″ squares. If I use my GB stands (most are .75×1.5″ wide or less) and in two ranks, 3×3″ would be tight so 4×4″ squares would be better.

Rommel may take a bit to reprogram ones thinking because its very different approach to the normal wargame “meme” of ranges & semi-free kriegspiel by returning to more of a boardgame meme. That can be quite good if it eliminates a lot of measuring and fiddling time. But I think there may still be some more subtle aspects in the rules with multiple ops and presumably some more operational considerations that give context beyond what most of us are used to in Skirmish or platoon-per-stand rulests which are relatively short duration, small area firefights.

Rommel has a “Combat Grid” which was rather puzzling to me and discussed here. I made up a suggested simplification. So assuming I buy the ruleset, I will probably remake the General Reference Chart to suit me. Head back here and click the Rommel category (at left) to see when I get around to adding another post.

This is the CRT that I suggested rather than the “Grid” that Rommel uses. I tend to remake General Reference Charts to suit my desire for a Turn Sequence order so I will likely redo the CRT too.

I’ve talked (or emailed) with three different prospective buyers and two have cooled off a bit on Rommel but the other is still pretty pumped. I am a bit skeptical but like to be on the cutting edge and stay open-minded.

Square, Hex or Brick Wall Grid

So assuming you are going to buy the rules, what do you do while you’re waiting? You can use your time now to make up a table grid. Sam mentions that one can use a hex grid instead of a square checkerboard grid. One can buy a felt hex grid or if you are DIY sort of guy, then you can make a “brick wall” grid much more easily than drawing hexagons! Here are various ideas about grid options:

1. The author suggested something simple and non-destructive, like putting/gluing a bush/rock/twig (tree trunk) etc. near the center of each square (or at the the intersection points of the vertical/horizontal grid lines). Doesn’t really have to be perfectly centered and using different items, colors and sizes so it takes away from the overly-regular look of a geometric grid.

Then you just place the opposing troops on either side of the marked center. It will be pretty obvious where they are in relation to other points. And how to move to those adjacent 4 squares’ enters. (Not sure if you can move diagonally!)

2. Otherwise you could snap chalk lines (like construction workers do). But caution! The chalk might never come out of your felt!

3. With the typical lack of foresight of a teenager, I made a grid with a light magic marker line on a green outdoor carpet covered table. Then I decided I didn’t want it like that any more and it vacuumed right out! Sometimes teenagers escape their bad judgement.

4. Do you prefer hexes? He says he will have a rule guideline to accommodate hexes since a lot of people have felt that is printed with hexes.* Rather than make hex grid, you could make a “brick wall” grid then (instead of checkerboard grid). Every other row of centers would be staggered.

So if you have 6” between each “hex” center going down a “hex-row” then the staggered row would be almost 5.25” ** above and below that. Then each “brick” would be adjacent to 6 other bricks and the distance from center to center would be exactly 3”.

I have added a blog page just about how Brick Wall Grids are precisely like a hex grid but easier to draw.

5. Litko makes stencils so you could add a hex grid to your table manually! http://www.litko.net/categories.php?category=Stencils/Grid-Stencils …one is a spray stencil but I’d think you’d need to constantly soak the plastic in some sort of non-destructive solvent to remove the possibility of paint build up. After working with that for few hours, you’d be transported back to when we painted the ICD headquarters walls with high-fume, thick basement paint. Were you the one reduced to sitting on the floor and painting with your hands?!

Actually it comes in different sizes from 1” to 6” wide hexes and including dots for the vertices (?) or corners of the hexes. Just stick a magic marker through the holes! Which would be easier and more subtle than spray painting hex sides.

*The link I provided is for Hotz Mats and he only makes 4” squares or 5” hexes maximum and on felt 45×72” maximum. With 5” hexes, a 45×72” piece of felt would be 9×14 kilometers in size …which is bigger than his “standard” table of 8×12 (4×6’ table with 6” square grid).

If you bought a Hotz Mat, I’d recommend his European Fields which can be good for much of Europe but the other side would be good for the steppes of Russia where he fields were larger or big forests reside. I have a European Fields felt and I like it because the green is kind olive colored and the felt is sturdy (unlike cheapo fabric store felt). Hotz has a new one now that has bushes (or hedgerows) imprinted on the field edges …and those bushes could just be ignored when they have no practical effect except to make the table look cool.

Again, the Rommel author admits that 6” is just an arbitrary grid size. Could be anything that works with your troops. Like a 3” grid if you have smallish bases of 1” or 1.25” wide so (2) bases could be put side by side. If you didn’t want to mess with making a grid at all, just buy one from Hotz Mats in Canada. That’s where I got mine from.

**Actually 5.25” is not precise… 5.19616” would be exactly correct. You may already have figured out that the 3 adjacent brick wall centers describe… (per the internet) An equilateral triangle is a special case of a triangle where all 3 sides have equal length and all 3 angles are equal to 60 degrees. The altitude shown h is hb or, the altitude of b. For equilateral triangles h = ha = hb = hc. If you have any 1 known you can find the other 4 unknowns.

Be an example to your men, in your duty and in private life. Never spare yourself, and let the troops see that you don’t in your endurance of fatigue and privation. always be tactful and well-mannered and teach your subordinates to do the same. Avoid excessive sharpness or harshness of voice, which usually indicates the man who has shortcomings of his own to hide. – Erwin Rommel

“We have a very daring and skillful opponent against us, and, may I say across the havoc of war, a great general.” He also deserves our respect because, although a loyal German soldier, he came to hate Hitler and all his works, and took part in the conspiracy to rescue Germany by displacing the maniac and tyrant. For this, he paid the forfeit of his life. In the sombre wars of modern democracy, chivalry finds no place … Still, I do not regret or retract the tribute I paid to Rommel, unfashionable though it was judged.Winston Churchill,


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