‘For Whom The Dice Rolls’ are rules for Brigade or Divisional games in the Spanish Civil War. Each base is half a company. The unit of manoeuvre is a battalion; that might be 8 bases although part of a unit can be split off from the main body at some cost of retaining control. The rules examples use 15mm figures in bases of 3 with an additional command base for infantry units. The command base is purely used to govern how spread out a unit is and could be ignored.
Your author has 15mm WW2 French, Russian and Finnish models based for Flames of War which could see service here for the Republic but lacks a suitable Nationalist force. To try out the system and see how many or few units are needed for a workable game Irregular 6mm strips will be used. A problem that any army built for Bolt Action, Chain of Command or other 1:1 systems will have is a lack of support weapons. Larger guns and all aircraft can be held off-board but at Brigade level assets such as HMGs, mortars and smaller guns would be needed in larger numbers. At full strength one or two models per battalion; depending on the basing used.
The 6mm models here do have just enough support assets having been built up for similar scaled rules in the 1990s. The SCW Irregular 6mms are not their best in this scale. They are cast as strips of 3 on thick bases which would take significant effort to remove and re-base. The SCW range is reasonably comprehensive and models from their WW1 and WW2 range can expand it. Unfortunately the WW2 infantry are cast 4 not 3 to a base making for some awkward re-basing to put them back into use. The models look OK from a distance, close up details are unclear. Guns are the best models but the limbers are blocky. Trucks are acceptable but the tanks less so. As an alternative Baccus do WW1 in 6mm, at this scale many of the models could be used for the SCW.
6mm works best with larger numbers of figures on base sizes approximating those used at 15mm or 28mm. It does have the advantage of getting a game in on a limited space. The relative size taken up by markers is greater than at larger scales. The dice and tokens here would easily fit on single 15mm or 28mm half-company bases. The best plan for painting 6mms is to use bright colours and accent select details such as tassles, berets and flesh areas. Any attempt to show real detail requires painting on what is not there and would not be seen from more than a short distance away. The models shown here are not a particularly good example of this painting. To be fair the camera close ups are much more detailed than would usually be seen in gaming.
The rules include tables of organisation and suggest brigade level games. There are no points values and no set game scenarios. This does make it hard to determine what might be a balanced, achievable game. The on-line resource pack includes a couple of scenarios. One seems relatively involved and the other requires Italians, which your author does not possess. To try out the system the double or breakthrough board from the Commands and Colors game Memoir ’44 will be used. The hexes will be treated as equivalent to 4″ across in the rules with models set to the edges or mid lines of hexes. That will give an equivalent to a gaming table of 4′ 6″ by 5′ 8″ plus the 6mm figures in 2cm strips will take up a little less space in proportion than the 3cm recommended bases.
The consequence of the card activation system deserves some debate. A unit can activate up to 3 times in a turn spending a card each time. A force will draw at least 1 card per unit, plus 2-6 based on the army quality and another 1D6 from a dice roll. Smaller forces will receive proportionally more cards from the quality and random factors. The very best troops such as La Legion can operate on any card suit. Most troops act on 2-3 out of the 4 suits only. So a proportion of the drawn cards are unlikely to be of use. Even for La Legion there are unlikely to be enough cards on hand to activate every unit 3 times. Units take hits which are allocated to stands when the unit is activated or it pays 2 cards of the same suit to reorganise. Reorganisation is a magic bullet that should be used whenever possible. Hits are halved, pins and disorder removed. The result is that a unit under heavy fire (many unallocated hits) will want to spend 2 of its 3 possible activations to reorganise. Any nearby enemy will continue to pump in more hits at a rate of 1 card per shooting. Unless there is some way to take the pressure off the unit will sink into a cycle of mounting losses. Although losses are allocated to stands and morale rolled for when a unit is activated there are some cases when a unit is obviously done for but technically still on the table. At its simplest the unit has hits which if halved and allocated are enough to wipe out all the unit’s stands. Alternatively the unit would be allocated enough hits when halved to ensure that it cannot pass the resulting morale test even on the best possble die roll. The simple solution is to remove such units at the end of a game turn.
Having got some idea of how the rules pan out and a strong lesson in the importance of heavy machine guns here follows an attempt at a more varied game. To the front of the ‘photo op’ we have 6 battalions of Republicans. 4 of regulars and 2 of militia recently co-opted into the Popular Army and not too happy about it. Behind are 8 battalions of Nationalists, 2 being Carlist and a group of 4 batteries of artillery. All the Nationalist Peninsular Army units have 2 bases of machine guns but the Carlists and Popular Army only have 1 machine gun base per battalion. The Nationalists also have 2 one-use off table assets, medium bombers and heavy artillery. Some of these machine gun bases are probably mortar models but in 6mm a model with a machine gun barrel or mortar tube over their shoulder looks much the same. Command bases are not being used. The bases with flags are standard infantry.
The Republic’s troops line up and hope for the best. The ex-militia battalions hold the rear. The Nationalists manage to draw enough of the right sort of cards to get all their units on the table. All the infantry are in skirmish order for relatively quick movement and to minimise losses. One battalion has taken some hits from long range machine gun fire. The Nationalists are looking to break through across the river, taking or isolating the town.
The Nationalist air and off table barrage comes in but with only limited effect. The Nationalists also bombard the Popular Army in the town and the general advance approaches the Battalions lining the river. Blue markers are hits allocated to bases. Yellow dice are unallocated hits to Batallions. The yellow die on the explosion is bombardment hits. The unit at the end of the river has built up a mass (9) of unallocated hits and is pinned for good measure. This is a consequence of any unit at the edge of the game board having a virtual exposed flank. All units are moving in short bursts and assumed to be halted at any time. Where units were kept moving green markers (similar to the blue) were used. Red markers are for pinned or other poor status units.
The Nationalists are across. A Battalion of Popular Army and both Battalions of Carlists are both out of the game. In the top of the field a Popular Army Battalion has pulled back to shorten the line.
The Nationalists push on taking more losses, the Republic pull back their exposed flank by the town. The game ended with the the Republic having the initiative and charging out of their defenses at 2 Nationalist Battalions dragging large numbers of unallocated losses. The allocation of losses caused both Battalions to fail morale. This required 5 consecutive cards of the same suit, attack and then pull back for 1 unit; attack, pull back and reform into firing line for the other. All activations were resolved separately. If the Nationalists had the initiative they could have reorganised the 2 wobbly units for 4 cards of the same suit. With 4 Battalions out of 8 off for an early bath the Nationalists make a flank assualt at the Republicans lining the fields by the town but that too is repulsed. A final tally of 5 Nationalist units routed or replulsed to 2 Republican routs.
In theory a 3:1 advantage should allow an attack to succeed. In gaming we do not want pre-ordained failure nor a walkover. With 8 Battalions against 6 and the hope that the artillery and off-table assets could neutralise 2 defenders a 2:1 ratio might have been hoped for. The better Nationalist morale and greater number of machine guns would also be expected to give an edge. The off-table support was not a game changer, single use assets can be relatively ineffective. Multiple instances of each asset would offset this. The artillery did its job but was only silencing 1 target at a time. With a bit of luck a single battery could shell 1 target, stop shelling and then shell another with 3 consecutive cards. This does depend on the cards being available and the rounds zeroing in on the first shots. Artillery will pin but its effect will vary. In this game the Nationalist guns shelled the town, earned 12 blast markers but only inflicted 1 hit. Shelling for more than 1 activation is needed to build up the bast markers under the target. The machine guns kept up their reputation as good value. They have a longer range and better firepower than infantry stands. It made sense to leave the machine guns behind giving covering fire as the infantry advanced. This did lead to isolated machine gun stands if the allocated infantry is subsequently destroyed.
The game size seemed about right for an evening’s play and limited knowledge of the rules. ‘For Whom the Dice Rolls’ does include vehicle rules but these were not used. The board seemed crowded, the defender could cover almost all of it as a single line. At this scale any terrain is a generic area not an individual feature. Where a unit spread over more than 1 feature the cover bonus for the most open was used. It would be reasonable to allow a unit to count as in firing line if in more than 1 parallel line at the cost of only being able to shoot from the front line. Built up areas need defining as to how many bases can shoot or melee. An entire company could fit in a good sized house. This would be fine for a cocktail party but in combat how many rifles could be brought to bear? If packed too tight losses would be increased unless we allow a unit to occupy deep bunkers. Trenches and deep bunkers were a feature of some Spanish Civil War battles but these would need to be scenario specific rules.