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Anyone attempting to design a companion set of rules to a game as popular and successful as Arty Conliffe’s SPEARHEAD rules is asking for trouble; every change of the rules is bound to upset someone somehow — perhaps even the original designer. Furthermore, SPEARHEAD gamers are certain to have predetermined expectations of how the game should be applied to the modern era.
In designing a modern version of SPEARHEAD, we thus faced dangers on two fronts. If we altered too much, we risked violating the integrity of the SPEARHEAD design; if we altered too little, we might fail in our efforts to simulate modern warfare. With this double jeopardy in mind, we present the following Designer’s Notes to explain why we made the changes we made to the original SPEARHEAD rules (for an explanation of the design philosophy that led to SPEARHEAD, we refer players to the Introduction).
One decision we made early on was to retain the "single stand" rules for infantry and armored personnel carriers from SPEARHEAD, judging that the numerous tactical decisions required of a player by a two-stand system were outside the scope of the division-level mechanics. We also felt the complexity of mechanized infantry operations could not be made compatible with MODERN SPEARHEAD if we used a "multi-stand" approach. The question, then, was how to best simulate, using one stand, the mounted and dismounted action of a platoon of infantry and its supporting armored vehicles. We found our answer in the West German doctrine that the dismounted infantry squad is but one of the weapon systems of a combined-arms team of men and vehicle (what we called a "Combat Team"). Since this doctrine reverses the conventional view that the armored vehicles exist to support the dismounted troops, it called for a closer look at why troops fight mounted.
After studying modern infantry doctrine, we concluded that there are two main reason infantry fights mounted:
1. To keep up with the tanks.
2. To reduce its vulnerability to indirect fire.
Much of modern defensive doctrine is concerned with generating and using obstacles and anti-tank zones that force attacking infantry to dismount, rendering them vulnerable to indirect fire.
Thus, Combat Teams move as vehicles on the assumption that the infantry are usually mounted inside their IFV or APC. Combat Teams are spotted as vehicles for the same reason; the exception is when the "Team" is in cover under the assumption that the infantry are at the edge of cover with the armored vehicle(s) in comparatively safe, covered supporting positions.
Combat Team DEF factors are based on similar doctrinal underpinnings. The Combat Team is vulnerable to enemy armor, especially in the open. This is because loss of a vehicle with mounted infantry will usually result in loss of at least part of the infantry component, the net result being to render the whole temporarily ineffective. However, the skilled application of combined arms tactics will reduce (if not eliminate) these risks. The Team is much less vulnerable when in covered defensive positions, where the infantry can be protected from artillery and yet not risk sudden death from antitank fire.
As in SPEARHEAD there is the option of dismounting from the vehicle, with no provision to remount again later. Dismounting is seen as an operational decision by the Company Commander, brought about by the threat of enemy MBTs and ATGWs, the need to cross an obstacle impassable to vehicles, or the desire to reduce the units signature (visibility) in open terrain. Because these are all likely to result in vehicles being sent some distance to the rear, where they will take no active part in the immediate future of unit operations, remounting is not permitted within the time frame of a typical MSH game.
Finally, we have built into the abstraction, by way of the priority rules, realistic responses for Combat Teams when they encounter enemy. In situations against other teams the infantry will invariably dismount to fight alongside their vehicle(s), this being the best way they can ensure that the enemy does not gain an advantage by doing so, and we have emphasized this by the use of AI factors rather than AT or ATGW. Similarly the presence of the armored vehicles prevents teams from being overrun, but allows them to overrun conventional infantry and artillery. Ultimately this means combat teams are very powerful in covered defensive positions, or against enemy with little armor present. However, on the attack against a well-balanced force the player is presented with a tactical dilemma. He must choose either speed across the open with safety from artillery fire (but vulnerability to MBTs and ATGWs), or discretion and safety from AT fire (but at the cost of speed and vulnerability to artillery).