Monday, July 11, 2011

Paper Tigers Battle Report

In my quest to find a set of WWII skirmish rules, I decided to take one more look around the Free Wargames Rules site, and came upon Paper Tigers, by Paper Tiger Armaments. The rules are not new, and I had seen them before, but had never tried them. So I decided to give them a spin. Since I was just testing out the rules with this game, I didn't create any scenario or back-story, but just set up some terrain, plunked down three squads for the Germans and three for the Americans (PT uses groups of 3-5 minis to represent squads), and let them have at it. The game uses a playing card mechanic for activation order, firing and movement. You assign a limited number of playing cards (unseen) to your units, which determine both the order and number of actions, and the probability of success in moving or shooting. Units can take two hits, becoming "damaged" after the first one (a generic term used in the rules for any unit pinned, suppressed, stunned, etc.) and destroyed after the second. I added one house rule (in mid-game, since it seemed to make sense), and that is if a unit can move into contact with a "damaged" enemy, the "damaged" unit is immediately eliminated.

Turns 1-2: The opposing platoons moved into positions under cover, with squads on both sides occupying patches of woods.

Turn 3: The US third squad on the American right flank lays down fire on the German first squad facing them, suppressing ("damaging") their target. The German third squad does the same to the American first squad on the opposite flank. The Germans then charge the suppressed ("damaged") American unit. Meanwhile, the US third squad maintains a withering fire that causes the German first squad to melt away (destroyed). The suppressed American first squad is unable to recover as the Germans come on.

Turn 4: The German third squad rushes the woods where the American first squad put their hands in the air and give up (destroyed). The German second squad shifts from the center in an attempt to flank the Americans on what is now the US left. The American third squad turns and moves toward the center to counter this maneuver. The US second squad takes a gamble and rushes out to gain a better position on the German unit trying to flank them – with luck they'll be able to fire on the Germans in the open (the US second squad still has a card remaining this turn, while the Germans do not). The German third squad, having secured their prisoners, swing back to the center in an effort to help their comrades by putting additional pressure on the US second squad's flank. The US second squad opens fire, but fails to hit the Germans in the open. Exposed on open ground themselves, this poor marksmanship will come back to haunt the Americans.

Turn 5: Tragically, the US second squad is caught in a deadly crossfire from the two German units, and is ripped to shreds (destroyed). Helpless to stop the slaughter, the US third squad pulls back to the village rather than take on two enemy squads all alone.

Turn 6: The US squad reaches the safety of the houses. Meanwhile one German squad takes up a position in the woods to fire on the GI's while the other sweeps out to try and enter the village from the rear.

The German fire momentarily pins (damages) the US unit, but they quickly recover, and the fight ends with the Americans withdrawing from the town to safety, and with the victorious Germans holding the field.

The overall flow of the battle looked like this:

Having played this game (and a couple others) here are my impressions of Paper Tigers:

First, from a mundane, pragmatic angle, the basic unit is a single vehicle, a single gun, or an infantry squad, the latter represented with only 3-5 models. This is excellent for me right now considering the very small size of my collection. In effect, each of my two current squads suddenly becomes a platoon under these rules, and with the addition of a few guns and vehicles, I could play the full array of Platoon Forward scenarios with little more than the original number of models I had planned to use just for the smaller "patrol" scenarios.

Second, while the rules are quite simple (which I like), there is some meaningful decision-making going on, which is also important. I found the ratio of "weight of decisions" to "lightness of rules" very favorable.

Third, while designed for player vs. player games, they are very solitaire-friendly – in fact there is a section at the end of the rules that details how to go about playing the game solo, and it works quite well.

Finally, in my play through, I found that there was enough of a luck element to keep things upredictable (especially in solo play), while at the same time not making the game a total coin toss.

All in all, I really enjoyed these rules, and to top it all off – they're free.


  1. Looks good, how big was your board for this one?

  2. Thanks for the AAR, looks like a fun game

  3. Thanks all!

    Monty: This was a 3' x 3' set-up. I did recently upgraded to a 6' x 3' piece of felt, which is more than I need at the moment, but it looks way cool :)

    Dan: The game is indeed fun, which is the focus, rather than any attempt at realism in terms of weapons systems. Arguably the card mechanic could be said to be realistic in the sense that it brings uncertainty as to whether orders will be followed (and if so how effectively). It lends itself well I think to a narrative-focused style of gaming rather than a style aiming at technical detail.


Two Up, One Back

"The dominant (though not the only) tactical formation for the infantry in both attack and defense remained 'two up, one back.' This was a product of the triangular organization that the infantry used from platoon to division level. Triangular units had three main 'maneuver' elements (weapons units did not count as 'maneuver' elements). Rifle platoons had three squads; rifle companies three rifle platoons; battalions, three rifle companies; and so forth. This encouraged commanders to place two of their maneuver units forward while keeping back the third so that it could relieve or reinforce a frontline unit."

--John Sayen, U.S. Army Infantry Divisions 1944-45 (28)