Infantry Attacks Overview
By Doug McNair
It is with a great sense of accomplishment (not to mention exhaustion and caffeine withdrawal) that I can finally state that our first brand-new game series in many years is a reality. August 1914 is the first boxed game in the Infantry Attacks series, though Gold Club members got to play an early prototype of the system with our downloadable game The Chihuahua Incident, 1916. Playtesting continued long after the release of Chihuahua, so the finalized Infantry Attacks system is different from it in many ways.
Billed from the start as a sister series to our long-running Panzer Grenadier system, Infantry Attacks is that plus a whole lot more. As I state at the top of page 2:
“Experienced Panzer Grenadier players will note that the Panzer Grenadier and Infantry Attacks rules are similar in many ways, but that there are also significant differences between them. All such differences are intentional and reflect the differences between World War I and World War II tactical combat. Players should not treat the rules for the two systems as interchangeable. So, if a player asks whether a rule that appears in the Panzer Grenadier rulebook or tables but does not appear in the Infantry Attacks rules or tables should apply to Infantry Attacks (or vice versa), the answer is no.”
It therefore makes sense to go over some of the things that differentiate Infantry Attacks from Panzer Grenadier and make it an accurate simulation of World War One ground combat.
Panzer Grenadier players will note that the Infantry Attacks rulebook is much longer than the Panzer Grenadier rulebook. The Infantry Attacks rules are about 75 percent longer than the Panzer Grenadier rules, and that’s mostly because Infantry Attacks has far more detailed rules for artillery than does Panzer Grenadier. Different unit types in Panzer Grenadier (tanks, infantry, artillery, etc) have differing abilities, but the general rules for fire and movement cover most of what they can do. However, artillery is very different from infantry in Infantry Attacks, so we had to add lots of rules in many of the rules sections differentiating the abilities of artillery from non-artillery units as well as far more detailed rules for use of off-board artillery factors.
As it states at the beginning of rules section 9.0 Bombardment Fire:
”Battlefield communications at the start of World War I were primitive; wig-wag flags and the occasional field telephone were all that was available other than dispatch riders and runners. This made artillery a non-flexible asset; nobody ‘called in’ an artillery barrage, and most artillery fire was programmed into a detailed plan well in advance of a battle. The only exceptions were artillery and mortar units assigned to positions where they could spot enemy units and fire at them over open sights. Players must therefore assign missions to their artillery units, mortar units and off-board artillery factors before a scenario begins.”
This is the biggest difference between the Infantry Attacks and Panzer Grenadier systems, and the effects on play are extensive. Panzer Grenadier players have the luxury of entering combat with a general idea of what they want to accomplish but no commitment to follow any specific battle plan. This is also true in Infantry Attacks scenarios depicting cavalry skirmishes, small-unit actions or battles in open terrain that don’t involve much artillery. But it is not so in scenarios involving large forces with massive artillery support clashing in defensible terrain or around prepared defensive positions. Artillery is the God of War in World War One because most infantry or cavalry units simply don’t have the firepower to drive enemy units out of towns, woods and dug-in positions. And because of the primitive communications available at the start of the war, in August 1914 all off-board artillery factors (plus any on-board artillery units that want to hit targets they themselves can’t spot) must adhere to a fire plan that the owning player draws up before the scenario begins. Units and factors with Planned Fire missions are the only ones that can combine their fire into a larger bombardment value when hitting the same hex (see Massive Barrages below), so if a player wants to hit a given hex with a big artillery barrage he must plot that fire out in advance.
So if a player is going to have any hope of successfully attacking an enemy force in defensible terrain, he must begin by drawing up an artillery plan that will soften up enemy positions before his troops arrive there. Also, planned fire does not discriminate, so if friendly troops are in a hex that is the target of a Planned Fire mission they will be caught in their own barrage unless the owning player makes a die roll to permanently abort the mission of the firing artillery. This all means that a player’s troop movements may well be dictated by his artillery fire plan; players will want to move their troops behind advancing walls of artillery fire so they can immediately attack enemy positions weakened by the artillery fire while (hopefully) avoiding being caught in their own barrages.
As restrictive as Planned Fire artillery missions can be, they also have several advantages not available in Panzer Grenadier play. For starters, there is no limit to how many artillery units or off-board artillery factors can combine fire on the same hex IF their fire on that hex is pre-plotted as part of a Planned Fire mission. This is a major change from the Chihuahua Incident rules. In Panzer Grenadier, no more than three artillery units or factors can combine fire on the same hex. This simulates the fact that in the chaos of battle there is a limit to how many artillery batteries can be effectively coordinated on the same target at short notice, since leaders from all over the battlefield will be making conflicting reports of enemy positions and requesting artillery support against them at the same time. But if all your artillery fire is planned in advance, the chaos factor goes away and you can target as much artillery on the same target as you wish. Proximity is still required for coordination; off-board artillery factors can’t combine fire with onboard artillery units, and onboard artillery units must be in the same or adjacent hexes to combine fire with each other. But other than that, if you’ve got five, ten, fifteen or however many artillery units or factors with Planned Fire missions, you can tell them all to fire on the same hex on the same turn and thus hit the enemy on the highest possible column on the Bombardment Table. That makes it very easy to clear enemies off a road or out of a patch of woods in advance of your troops, or to soften up enemies in towns or trenches before your troops arrive there.
No Spotting Required
Another advantage of Planned Fire missions is that nobody has to spot for them. In Panzer Grenadier, an artillery unit can fire on enemy units it can spot, or failing that an artillery unit or off-board artillery factor can fire on enemy units which an undemoralized friendly leader can spot. Artillery units with Open Sights missions in Infantry Attacks can also hit enemy units they can spot, but units or factors with Planned Fire mission can hit any pre-plotted hex on the board that’s within their range. No spotting is required for units with Planned Fire missions, because their fire plans are based on reports from aerial or ground reconnaissance that took place before the battle. So, since off-board artillery factors have unlimited range, they can hit enemy positions immediately no matter where on the board they are, and they can also plan to hit enemy units that are scheduled to enter the board on the turn right after they enter.
A third advantage of Planned Fire missions is the use of Drumfire markers. Any unit or factor with a Planned Fire mission that hits the same hex two turns in a row causes a Drumfire marker to be placed there. If a Drumfire marker is in a hex, any unit or leader that enters that hex is immediately attacked by the artillery unit or factor that placed the Drumfire marker there. If more than one unit or factor hits the same hex two turns in a row, then multiple Drumfire markers get placed in that hex and all the units or factors that placed them there can combine fire on any units or leaders that enter the hex. So, this means that units or factors with Planned Fire missions can effectively interdict enemy troop movements by placing Drumfire markers in road or other hexes along the likely enemy line of approach. This is a tactical option that is not available to players in Panzer Grenadier, since all artillery fire in that game is resolved immediately and has no effect on units or leaders that enter a hex after the fire is resolved.
The cavalry also gets to shine in Infantry Attacks in ways it can’t in Panzer Grenadier. Each cavalry unit can dismount or re-mount as desired, with mounted cavalry able to perform cavalry charges and dismounted cavalry less vulnerable to enemy fire and also able to perform opportunity fire. Cavalry was also a far more feared and respected service arm in the early days of World War One, so for psychological as well as other reasons cavalry charges get a +2 column modifier on the Assault Table in August 1914 (as opposed to just +1 in Panzer Grenadier). Most infantry units are also slower in Infantry Attacks than in Panzer Grenadier because each such unit represents a full company of men rather than a platoon, while cavalry still have their full movement rate of 5. That means that a player with cavalry can block and harass the movements of enemy infantry even more effectively in Infantry Attacks than in Panzer Grenadier.
Fortune Favors the Bold
In Panzer Grenadier, morale is everything. A force with higher morale is pretty well assured of dislodging an enemy force with lower morale unless that enemy force has far greater numbers or plenty of defensive terrain to work with. But it ain’t necessarily so in Infantry Attacks. A force with higher morale will still have plenty of advantages, but if it has little artillery support or the units comprising it have low direct fire values, it will have a hard time clearing even a lower-morale enemy out of towns, woods and trenches. So if units find themselves in an assault hex with enemy units they can’t budge, their best option is usually to close in for a Cold Steel attack. Doing so is risky because it lets the enemy units fire first with a +2 column modifier, but all attacking units which survive the defensive fire undemoralized will then be able to attack with a +2 column modifier as well. If the attackers have numerical or morale superiority, it’s likely that they’ll get the upper hand in Cold Steel attacks and will be able to use that tactic to clear the enemy units out of the hex.
So overall, Infantry Attacks shares many of the same game mechanics with Panzer Grenadier but plays very differently. The new August 1914 game offers World War One enthusiasts an accurate and enjoyable simulation of battle in East Prussia in 1914 while letting experienced Panzer Grenadier players try their skills in a completely different battlefield environment.
We hope you enjoy the game, and we’ve got many Infantry Attacks scenario book supplements in the design phase along with the next boxed game in the series, Fall of Empires. So stay tuned!
August 1914 is available now, so order your copy TODAY!