Counterstrike! A System for WWII Miniatures Wargames


Counterstrike is designed to allow wargamers to recreate the small-unit actions of WWII with miniatures of 15mm and larger, although any scale may be used. The system is a typical "fast-play" system, similar to rulesets such as Crossfire and Rapid Fire! Typical forces will have a battalion on a side, although anything up to a brigade could be accomodated in a larger, multi-player game, and a company on a side is not too small. The focus is on infantry action, although the rules provide fully for armor and artillery.

These rules are an experiment of sorts, in a couple of ways. First, they are designed to reflect a belief that combat during WWII was very sharp and decisive. Each turn in this game represents perhaps a minute of real time, but an average game will last only (perhaps) ten turns once the action is joined. What is simulated in these games is not the maneuver leading up to combat so much as the combat resulting from such manuever.

They are also an experiment in computer-assisted wargames design. Many computer-assisted systems require that the units in the game be programmed into the system before play starts. This system uses the computer as a "calculator", in which the computer leads players through a "flow-chart" of tabletop actions, producing a result for that action quickly and easily. As players will see once they have tried it out, Counterstrike is an incredibly easy system to use, but it is not a typical computer-assisted miniatures wargame. In some sense, it is a hybrid between typical computer-assisted wargames design and paper-and-dice systems.

It was also designed to be useable on smaller computerized devices such as PDAs. Any PDA or device with a javascript-capable web browser should be able to run Counterstrike. (This may even include your cell phone!)

Units, Troop Types, Basing, and Scales

In Counterstrike, each infantry base represents a "fire team" - three or four soldiers, with a crewed weapon if appropriate. Vehicles and towed weapons are represented at a 1:1 scale. Supporting artillery and airpower is abstracted, as these elements - while important - would not be under the control of the officers whose part in the battle the players take. Players are responsible for calling in supporting fire, but not for managing it in the same way as they do the ground forces.

All units are organized into platoons made up of several bases and/or vehicles. Typically, this will include from six to a dozen infantry bases, with supporting transport if appropriate, or (for armor) four or five vehicles. The platoon is an important organizational level in this game - squads and companies, while they exist for organizational purposes in the scenario, are not as important to play.

Each turn represents approximately a minute of real time, and 1" = 25 yards. In terms of larger-scale miniatures, this means that the troops are not very close to ground scale: a 25mm tank represents not just the vehicle itself, but 25-50 yards of space on each side of it. (Players who wish to use micro-armor could certainly do so to more accurately depict the action.)

All units are grouped into the following categories:

  1. Personnel: this includes all crew-served, non-towed weapons; and all infantry bases.
  2. Towed Weapons: This includes all guns and similar weapons capable of limbering and unlimbering.
  3. Vehicles: This includes all tanks, armored cars, half-tracks, trucks, jeeps, etc.

Guns and other weapons are classified by their capabilities:

  1. Anti-tank guns, capable of firing AP rounds, and often also HE
  2. Artillery, which are guns, howitzers, and mortars used for HE fire, sometimes capable of AP, and often capable of indirect fire, sometimes exclusively.
  3. Anti-Tank Rifles (a subclass of AT guns)
  4. Anti-Tank Rocket Launchers (Bazookas, Panzerfaust, PIAT, etc.)
  5. Rifles
  6. Submachineguns
  7. Light Machine Guns
  8. Medium Machineguns
  9. Heavy Machineguns

Players should know the capabilities and armament of each vehicle and base fielded. Such capabilities as firing smoke rounds and starshell should be specified, as should direct vs. indirect fire. Off-board supporting fire - including airstrikes - are abstracted in this game. The availability of support calls, and their capability rating, must be specified: how many supporting fire calls are permitted to each side, and which bases have the ability to call and spot for these rounds. Also - if aircraft - the ability to perform strafing should also be specified.

Note that vehicles have integral crews, capable of driving and working the weapons systems. The same is true for towed weapons.

Playing the Game

Game sequence is very simple. Each side is given a color designation: one side is designated "Red", the other is designated "Blue". This designation remains the same for the entire game for each side. The game is divided into turns. Each personnel base or vehicle may take a single action during the turn. When all vehicles and bases wishing to take an action have done so, the turn ends. The turn sequence is initiated by clicking the "Initiative" button. There are several possible responses:

Note that any primary action may trigger re-actions on the part of any enemy units which have not already used their fire action for the turn. When a unit fires as a primary action, any over-watching enemy units may spot and fire as a reaction. When a unit moves as a primary action, over-watching fire may be taken by any capable enemy unit as a reaction at any point occupied during the move, in the order of movement (that is, if the unit moves from position A to position B to position C, all fire on position B is made before any fire on position C.) If a unit moves and fires as a primary action, movement is made, then overwatching reaction spot and fire is conducted (as described above), after which primary fire is made.

Once the initiative sequence is complete, and all appropriate actions have been taken, the initiative button is clicked again. A player may declare that they have no actions to make instead of using their initiative. Once both sides have made this declaration on subsequent initiatives, then the turn is automatically over.

At the end of the turn, all markers are picked up (markers indicating movement, fire, suppression, etc.) Suppressed units are no longer suppressed, and no units are considered to be moving or firing (and thus are not eligible for spotting.) Destroyed vehicles should be left on the table and marked with puffs of black oily smoke and/or flame, as burning vehicles provide cover to other troops. Other destroyed units should be removed.


Spot: Spotting is checking whether a given unit is able to effectively target an enemy unit. Any unit which is not in the open and not hidden must be spotted. Any fire or movement in open allows a unit to be seen. If you spot and succeed, you must fire on the spotted unit. Thus, units which cannot fire may not spot, unless acting as an observer for indirect fire. To be eligible for spotting, the target must have moved and/or fired in the turn during which the spotting occurs. If any base in a platoon has spotted another base, any base in the spotter's platoon may fire on any base in the spotted bases' platoon without checking, for the duration of the turn. It is possible for units which have failed a spotting check to fire subsequently on a target because another base in their platoon has successfully spotted the target base or another in its platoon.

Fire Rifles: This indicates the firing of a rifle-armed base. This action may only taken once per turn per base. Rifle fire has no effect on armored targets.

Fire SMG: This indicates the firing of a sub-machine-gun-armed base. This action may only taken once per turn per base. SMG fire has no effect on armored targets.

Fire LMG: This indicates the firing of a light-machine-gun-armed base, including Browning Automatic Rifles (BARs) and MG42s not on a tripod mount. This action may only taken once per turn per base, unless the LMG is mounted on a vehicle which also has other weapons capable of a separate fire action. LMGs have no effect on armored targets.

Fire MMG: This indicates the firing of a medium-machine-gun-armed base, including MG42s on a tripod mount. This action may only taken once per turn per base, unless the MMG is mounted on a vehicle which also has other weapons capable of a separate fire action. MMGs have no effect on armored targets.

Fire HMG: This indicates the firing of a heavy-machine-gun-armed base. This action may only taken once per turn per base, unless the HMG is mounted on a vehicle which also has other weapons capable of a separate fire action. HMGs have no effect on armored targets except for Very Light armored targets.

Fire Heavier Automatic Weapon: This action indicates the firing of a heavier automatic weapon, such as a quad-mounted 20mm AA gun or similar. Heavier automatic fire may be used effectively against Very Light and Light armored targets.

Armor-Piercing Fire: This includes the firing of all dedicated anti-armor weapons (that is, all weapons which are explicitly designed to penetrate armor.) This category does not include the use of high-explosive (HE) fire against armored targets, nor close assaults on armored targets using anti-armor grenades and similar weapons.

Direct High-Explosive Fire: This category includes the fire of high-explosive weapons with a clear line-of-sight from the firer to the target. Mortars are incapable of direct fire, and many other HE weapons will use indirect or area fire by choice. Typically, tank guns and anti-tank guns will fire in a direct role, however.

Indirect High-Explosive Fire: This includes all indirect and area fire, which is typically done over intervening obstacles. It requires that a friendly unit capable of communicating with the firing unit be able to "spot" for that unit. Unlike direct fire, this type of fire involves placing a blast radius marker on the table where indicated, and then testing for each base which is either under that blast radius or moves into it later in the turn. Each such unit is checked by using the "[In HE Blast Radius]" action. This action may only be used on any given target unit once per turn (unless a bases moves through it and then re-enters it, in which case it is tested for each entry into the blast radius). It affects friendly units and enemy units alike. This action may be used to target particular bases or to cover areas of the terrain.

Move: Each vehicle or base is rated for movement as either Personnel, Very Slow, Slow, Medium, Fast, or Very Fast. Each of these has a base movement rate, which is modified by the terrain moved across. All moves include bussing/debussing, limbering/unlimbering, and any number of turns or facing changes as well as movement of the specified distance. You cannot get a "double action" by debussing or unlimbering, however: when a vehicle moves, this is counted as an action for all bussed infantry or towed weapons as well. Troops or weapons which unlimber or debus also use the vehicle's movement for the turn. This also works in reverse - bussing or limbering takes an action for both the vehicle and the other involved bases to be completed. Vehicles with their own mounted weapons may fire while bussing/debussing and limbering/unlimbering, however, and this does not count as a moving fire.

For assigning movement rates, use the following rule of thumb:

Jeeps are very fast; trucks and halftracks are fast.

Terrain affects base movement on a pro-rata basis as follows:

Thus, if a heavy tank has a base movement of 6" per turn, and spends 2" going through rough terrain, then it only has another 2" to move. Terrain modifiers should be implemented on an inch-by-inch basis, and subtracted from base movement as the vehicle moves.

Infantry Close Assault on Pillbox/Tank: This represents the use of "sticky bombs", anti-tank grenades, and similar equipment. If a flame-thrower or other short-range engineering tool is used, that increases the chances of a successful assault. Note that the penalty for a failed assault is death. The assaulting base must move into contact with the target of the assault during the movement part of the action, take any reactive fire, and then conduct the assault.

Lay Smoke: Laying smoke is an attempt to disturb line-of-sight, thus permitting troops to avoid direct fire which they would otherwise have to face. Any smoke-capable weapon (mortars and other artillery, typically) will specify where the smoke sheaf is to land, per the instructions given, which is then adjusted as per the results of the action. Each bases' smoke should be marked as to which action it was laid in sequentially, as it may stay on the borad for some time - initiative will instruct you when to remove smoke. It will always be removed in the order in which it is laid - that is, all smoke laid during a given action by a platoon will be removed at the same time, and before other smoke laid later is removed.

Fire Starshell: Firing a starshell causes the entire table to be in daylight conditions until all starshells are extinguished. Typically, only artillery and mortars can fire starshell. Starshell is extinguished in much the same fashion that smoke is dispersed - all starshell fired by a single platoon in a single action will be extinguished at one time, and before any subsequently fired starshell is extinguished.

Request Support Fire: Support fire represents airstrikes and off-board artillery support. Specific bases should be given the ability to request supporting fires by scenario (typically command bases with radios), and the type of support available should be specified. The desired location of support fires should be specified when the request is made, aqnd the order in which each side makes requests should be recorded. Initiative will tell you when a supporting fire comes in, and what the deviation from the requested location is.

Note that airstrikes may instead or in addition include armor-piercing fire (rockets) or strafing with MMGs or HMGs. This should be specified by scenario. AA-capable bases may choose to use their fire to perform AA fire when an airstrike occurs. Two or more bases of HMGs or a single base of heavier automatic weapons fire (or AA Artillery) constitutes "heavy" AA. AA may result in the cancellation of the airstrike, or increase deviation from desired target location.

[In HE Blast Radius]: This is not so much an action as a way of determining the effects of an HE blast on a base, vehicle, or gun. Select this action for each base wholly or partially under the blast radius of HE when it is placed, or for each time it comes underneath the blast radius.

Classifications for Modifiers

Each action will prompt players for several inputs, to help determine modifiers. The following should help players in correctly answering these prompts.

Armor Ratings: Note that the offered numbers are guidelines. Such factors as armor slope, vehicle profile, and known weaknesses (such as a penchant for exploding when hit) may raise or lower ratings as indicated by the numbers.

Armor-Piercing Fire Ratings: Note that veryhigh-velocity guns and those with a very high rate of fire may go up a category. Very low-velocity guns may drop a category. The offered numbers are guidelines. Note that most field guns designed to fire HE will be low-velocity, and thus go down a category.

HE Gun Ratings: These are mortars, howitzers, and similar guns primarily designed to fire HE, shrpanel, and smoke rounds.

Note that turreted vehicles, and all personnel bases and crewed weapons have a 360-degree arc of fire. For towed weapons and turretless vehicles, allow fire up to 30 degrees of either side of facing. It is permitted to pivot in place before firing for all classes of base without constituting a moving fire - this is just part of a fire action.

Combat Results

There are several possible combat results in Counterstrike, the most common of which are destruction and suppression. A destroyed vehicle stays on the table, marked with black cotton representing oily black smoke (or other, similar device). Such a vehicle is an obstacle to LOS on its terrain level (like a stone wall or similar obstacle) and it offers cover. Personnel bases and towed weapons are removed from play. Suppression indicates that any further action may not be taken during the turn, as the unit in question is making evasive maneuvers or going to ground. This includes partial actions, such as a close assault or fire taking place at the end of the action, which will be disrupted by response fire resulting in suppression. Suppression of vehicles may also include destruction of primary or secondary armament, or immobilization. Immobilization means that the vehicle has lost a track or wheel, and may no longer perform any movement whatsoever. Losing primary armamment means that the heaviest weapon on a vehicle is destroyed. Secondary armament are MGs or similar, non-primary weapons. If a vehicle does not have a weapon in the named category, or it has already been destroyed, ignore this part of the result.