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Sunday, January 28, 2018

Trench Hammer Game Mechanic Demo

I recently had the honor to collaborate with Ivan from Nordic Weasel Games on Trench Hammer (available here at Wargames Vault), a set of tactical WW1 rules derived from his excellent Squad Hammer.

Here is a replay showing some of the rule mechanics.  You can use any scale and basing scheme you wish.  I intend to use casualty markers to mark hits but have used dice for clarity in the pictures.

Just to get some admin stuff out of the way...

  • The table is about 30" wide
  • The figures are 10mm Pendraken based on 40mm x 20mm bases
  • Craters are from a company called 3d Corp in Poland. They are flexible rubber and I have ordered some trenches from them as well.
  • Click pics to enlarge!
  • A few basic rules:
    • Units can be issued one of 4 orders during a turn: Engage, Regroup, Withdraw, or Redeploy
    • Units with Engage orders may move THEN fire.  Fire is always at the end of your move.
    • Units are destroyed when they take 7 hits.  Hits are an abstract representation of casualties, suppression, and morale effects.
  • The game only took 30-40 minutes, but I was one of the designers and playing solo.  But they are very fast play with an emphasis on fire and movement and small unit tactics.  As a rule of thumb, if you like other games Ivan has designed or One Hour Wargames, they will probably be your cup of tea. 

Ok, here is the scenario...  March 22, 1918 and the Great Kaiser Offensive shatters the British front lines.  The remains of a British platoon with a Vickers HMG have set up a blocking position in a set of shell craters at a crossroad.  A fresh German platoon from the second wave is approaching with orders to clear the position and continue the advance.

Here is the German platoon, behind a hill ready to attack.

And here is the British Defensive position.  The Platoon leader has rallied what remains of his unit, but they are short of grenades and rifle grenades, so consist of a Lewis Gun section and Rifle section in addition to the Vickers.

Turn 1

The Germans go first. Trench Hammer is an I Go / You Go system, with the active player rolling 2d6 and (usually) picking the higher.  This is the number of squads he can activate.

The German player uses 2 of his activations to have his MG08/15 squads move onto the hill and fire at the Lewis Section.

Firing is a 2d6 roll, and you want to equal or better the target number to cause damage. You start at 7+ to hit, and while you are encouraged to use your judgment, there are some canned modifiers.  As the Lewis Gun section is in a shell hole, they receive a +2 modifier.  So both MG08/15 sections need a 9+ on 2d6 to cause damage.

Note that the MG08/15's would get a -1 to hit and have 8+ (because of their LMG) if they had remained stationary and fired. The MG08/15 was cumbersome and the Lewis Gun does not have this restriction.

Both squads hit and cause a total of 6 damage to the Lewis Section.

Meanwhile, off camera to the left, the Germans use their remaining activation to move a bombing squad forward 6".  The Platoon Leader uses his special Move Out! ability to get the other squad to advance 2".

For the British Activation on Turn 1, they were able to activate all 3 units.  (not pictured here)  The Platoon Leader shifted over to the Lewis Section and used his Heads Up! ability rally off one of the hits and then issued a Regroup order to the Lewis Section.  Regroup allows you to roll a d6 three times, each time, if the roll is < the current number of hits, you remove a hit.  the Lewis Section removes 2 more hits this way.

As seen below the Vickers HMG fires at the Germans on the hill.  The base to hit is 7+ but as an HMG is firing they get a -2, so need a 5+ to hit.  They do hit and score 5 damage.  The rifle section misses it shot.

Turn 2

The German player rolls 3 activations. He chooses to use his first on to issue a Withdraw order to the damaged MG08/15 squad and they retreat behind the hill.  They automatically recover 1 hit as a result.  This is how suppressive fire is built into the rules.  The German player could have left them on the hill to fire but would have probably lost them in the next British turn.  Now he will have the opportunity to have the Regroup in future turns, but they cannot fire this turn or probably the next.  

So, the Vickers has successfully suppressed them, without having to have any separate suppression or morale rules. Hits are an abstraction of casualties, suppression, and morale effects.

Using his other 2 activations, the German player moves his Bombing squads forward and fires on the Lewis Section.  As they are <12" away but >6" They engage in a Firefight, so the Lewis Section gets to fire back immediately when fired on. The Germans come off the worse in the exchange.

The British turn begins with them receiving 2 activation points.  The leader rallies a hit off fo the Lewis Section, the Lewis Section delivers withering fire on one fo the German Bombing squads, destroying it.  Meanwhile the HMG puts accurate fire on the remaining MG08/15 on the hill. 

Turn 3

The remaining German Bombing squad moves forward and Assaults the Lewis Gun Section.  An Assault is any combat within 6" and both sides fire simultaneously.  This is also where the strength of the grenade tossing Bombing squads show.

As they are in an assault, the bombers do not have to contend with the cover of the shell hole as their volley of grenades arc through the air.  As you can see below, the Germans destroy the Lewis Section.

Meanwhile the MG08/15 teams are still regrouping behind the hill.

The British player has lost his Lewis Section and Platoon Leader, leaving his HMG team vulnerable, so...

Turn 4

Turn 4, the Germans move their regrouped MG08/15 teams in to pour fire into the remaining British Rifle Section, causing 3 more Damage, bringing them up to 6.  The remaining German Bombing squad finishes them off in a bloody assault, taking 3 hits in return.

The British Vickers team decides to withdraw...

The Germans used fairly good fire and movement tactics in this assault but will need to regroup before pressing on.  At this rate I am sure the war will be over by Christmas...

Well, I hope you enjoyed this little demo of some of the mechanics.  Remember you can use any scale or any basing scheme you wish and there are plenty of optional rules to add more chrome if you like.

Until next time, good gaming!


  1. Lots of potential for World War II and Cold War games I think. Thanks for the descriptions very helpful. I went and bought Squad Hammer!

    1. Thank you, yes, I think it would be great for WW2 and is very flexible. I would be tinkering with WW2 but I don't have any troops right now.

    2. Thank you for the support.

      I have a Winter War (39-40) variant alllllllmost ready to go as a testing ground for WW2.

  2. Great game report- looks like a fast fun system.



    1. Thank you! But really praise Ivan, I just helped him tweak it for the Great War.

  3. Thanks for posting Tin Man, looks cool, and I can't wait to see folks start messing with WWII and Cold War. I do actually have some WWI US Marines and Germans waiting to be based, not sure what to do with them, probably ought to pick these up.


    1. An excellent idea. Eventually I'd like to get some Americans and French as well. Cold War would be great too, hmmmmm....

  4. Replies
    1. Thank you! Going to move some lead again soon.