Friday, April 09, 2021

Wargamer's Newsletter - Phil Barker's "Rules for World War Two (Normandy) Wargames"

Another opportunity to share some of the gems from that recent purchase.. complete with hand typed notes, and wonky page lay outs..  glorious..  this time some vintage Phil Barker in the form of WW2 rules

Going to guess the paper slipped in the type writer..  😀

First interesting note - Normandy was not well known for it's "open steppe's" so I suspect these originated in another rule set...  One to one scale - so these are skirmish level... By the by I think I have applied "inherent military probability" to every game I've ever played - very sound words indeed..

Interesting .."Time spent in throwing dice" - as compared to overturning over a card? I can see 'overwatch' fire being difficult to adjudicate and subject to discussion... 😀  The firing mechanism is entirely random so it couldn't easily be dice driven - it requires a specific result to score a hit - not a result range... I like the idea about using colours to help adjudicate hits in cover or not, though - simple and clever

Straight forward given the explanation on the previous page - note that there is no range for medium MG's, basically everyone in the line of fire has a 50% chance of being hit (!)..   the "6" under 'Radius of Effect' is a mis-type I think... 

I can't imagine Normandy was awash with T70's and Josef Stalin 122's... 😀 So a 25% chance of hitting irrespective of range, and then a 50% chance after that if the vehicle is hull down - waiting to see if there are any suppression rules as clearly unless you can hit the tank you aren't going to fire at it...

No suppression option but that's an easy add - the black and white nature of inflicting damage on an armoured vehicle - it is either penetrated, or it is not, there's no scope for morale effect on the crew.

So the two Appendices' are not wholly applicable to the rules - the penetration values are purely informational (it would be nice to know the source), and all you need from appendix 1 is the gun type for the vehicle you are firing, Appendix 2 is purely informational..

Post match analysis:
  • there is much in these rules that I like, and I would say it is more than possible I will have a go with my 15mm "Fall of France" figures, since there is more than enough here to be able to reverse engineer the earlier vehicles
  • the core mechanism is the card driven result - red or black, and a number between 0 and 3. 
  • It wasn't until I saw the firing results for light machine guns that I realised that the result given to hit something is an "actual", not a less than, or more than number...  if you need "1" to score a hit and you pull a "2" or a "3", then the fact those numbers are bigger, is irrelevant - you miss...  
  • so effectively then you automatically have a 25% chance of scoring a hit
  • that 25% chance is unaffected by range - which is a little strange - the range bands provided just require you to pull a different number - still with a 25% chance - so I am not sure what is being modelled there..  the rules could lose the range bands as they are irrelevant in terms of making it easier or harder to hit the target. What I would have done is to offer multiple chances to hit at lower ranges eg, at close range you hit on "1", "2" or "3", medium range on "2" or "3", long range on "3". A "0" would always be a miss (as they are in the rules as written)...
  • the other core mechanism is red or black - whether a result is red or black governs (among other things) whether a hit is on a hull or a turret (anti-tank fire), whether it is a hit or not (eg. targets in cover, targets for MG's etc.), and whether a vehicle is destroyed or immobilised (infantry anti tank)
  • no morale or suppression rules - given the level of abstraction that may be by design/decision, but for me, my reading would lead me to the conclusion that it isn't only penetrating hits that disabled vehicles..
  • no hand to hand rules either - which is probably more understandable, and easily dealt with under firing
  • what a refreshing set of rules...  like them...   but yeah, I'd have to replace the cards - a lot of what they bring is good, but it also means other mechanisms need tweaking..


  1. Many thanks. These do look very refreshing.

    1. Hi Duc.. refreshing enough that I feel keen to try them...

  2. Ineresting - my copy of these rules has no illustration on the front. I never actually used them as I was happy with the rules in 'Wargames'. Best wishes. Jim

    1. Hiya Jim - back in the day I think I was using the "Wargames" version as well - weren't they by Lionel Tarr?? I like these though - so much so I feel the need to push some lead and see how they play... To replace the card idea I'm thinking of using a red and a black D6 - throw both, select whichever is the highest as the result (which gives you red or black), half the result on the dice (rounded down) to give you a value... but I think I will go with the range idea rather than an absolute... will see how it works..

    2. Yes Steve, they were by Lionel Tarr. When I discovered Battle by Charles Grant I was persuaded by his writing to try them (been persuaded to try many periods by his writing - his enjoyment is most infectious I find).

    3. Jim - it's been a while but I must hoik the two out and have a look, as I think I went the same route as you as well.. I remember Attack Values and Defence Values, for armour, and that HMG's got three dice.. but not a lot else after 45+ years!

  3. Kudos for holding onto (or getting) a copy of this. I had it without the “illustration” on the front as well, but never used the rules since I was happier with Operation Warboard instead. Any idea when Mr Barkers rules came out?

    1. JBM, I was chuffed as nuts at getting the package.. even better, I have not yet featured the original Western Skirmish rules (I got v1. and v2.!) which back in the day were the basis for my "Annals of Cedar Gulch"! As to age... there's an advert on the back for the Newsletter with some subscription prices which may be able to marrow it down, but I'm going to guess late 60's early 70's..

  4. Thanks for sharing these, I will read ..... and reread them, just like in the good old days. this is a timely post. This morning I saw a short set of free rules, all typed out etc. You download the PDF in seconds, print out the 4 pages in a minute or so and then some rather nice rules are in your hand. I contrasted that this morning in conversation with someone, when I related to do the same thing as a teenager, I had to jump two buses and get onto the other side of the city to a small wargame shop that was on a corner somewhere out of familiar zone, buy the newsletter and then hand on every word of it all the way home and for weeks after that. All good stuff!

    1. HANG on every word .... doh!

    2. Hi Norm, yeah.. it added in value to every transaction, that "difficulty of obtaining"... the Newsletter had to come to Australia for me at the time, and I'd practically camp out by the letter box from print day onwards!

  5. I'd hardly link the word 'gem' with anything written by Barker myself, unless it was Ronnie of course.

  6. Hiya David, LOL.. not a fan, then? :o) I'm not a fan of his grammar all the time (v1 of DBA needed a lawyer on hand) but his legacy is not to be sniffed at...

  7. I must of picked them up in the 90s at Cancon I think or perhaps MOAB, the owner had placed copious notes and extra pages with tables for tanks for the whole war, I think taken from tractics or such and he had mashed them together. I never have played them but they do have some interesting thoughts.

    French Wargame Holidays

  8. Steve
    I think the 'to hit' number is a minimum - so 2 is 2 or 3 etc. I think that IHP suggests that interpretation is more likely than the alternative absolute interpretation(!) With the 'additive' approach only the shortest range LMG figure is strange. With the absolute interpretation everything is strange, particularly in light of the info in App II which demonstrates that hit probability is range dependent (and that the author knows it).

    Accepting an additive interpretation, the relevant question changes to 'why the strange LMG number at up to three inches?'
    I am wholly unqualified to answer that, but I can imagine an argument for a shorter range forcing a smaller arc of fire on the LMG and perhaps sthg about being unable to depress the gun sufficiently to optimally target prone figures?

    Anyway I'm sure Phil had his reasons and am convinced that the additive interpretation is the correct one. Otherwise why bother with different numbers? Just have zero and one, have three times as many zeros and everything hits on one only. Interesting to note that make up of the deck is not specified - I presume it's evenly split amongst 0,1,2 and 3. A deliberately 'biased' deck was an idea for the future.


    1. I think that's right.

      The low probability of an LMG scoring a hit at close range presumably represents the difficulty of lining up on a fast-moving target at close range (25 yards or less) if firing off a bipod.

      Fans of Phil Barker (among whom I count myself) will recall that there is a similar dip in very close-range firepower for MGs in his later "Infantry Action 1925-1975" rules.

      Incidentally, I believe the publication of this set caused a good deal of bad blood between Phil Barker and Donald Featherstone, Don having published (and charged money for) these rules without bothering to ask permission of the author.

      All the best,


  9. Hello,
    I think that the clue about understanding the table is that each column says up to x inches. So the scores required add up at close range, i.e. a target at 10" uses not only the score "up to 12" but also includes the score required "up to 24" and "up to 36".
    The difference at 3" then is coming from the fact that black and red produces a hit.
    Best Regards,
    PS: Many thanks for posting!