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Leader House Rules



  • I am working on house rules for leaders and wanted to get the communities’ feedback. These are intended for the Global '39 game, but can be used in any variant. These are also based on a D12 system. My goal was to make leaders potentially decisive, without making them overpowered.

    The nexus of leaders are their special abilities. All leaders functionally operate the same way. Leaders have at least one icon displayed, which represents a certain special ability. Leaders have at least one special ability, but can have up to three. All leaders have the option of retreating defending units after the first complete round of combat without sustaining another round of attacking rolls. Also, allied units contained in a territory with a leader can be “attached” to a leader’s army. In such cases, allied units can attack simultaneously under the banner of one leader, benefiting from that leader’s abilities. Only one leader at a time can lead an army into battle and delegate his abilities, although subordinate leaders can occupy the same territory or accompany the advancing army. If an army containing a leader is completely destroyed, that leader is removed from play. During Combat movements, leaders move normally with the units under their command. However, during Non-Combat movements, Leaders are not limited by movement like other units. During Non-Combat movements leaders can be moved to any number of land territories or sea zones that are connected and in supply. Nations have a certain “officer reserve pool”, which limits how many leaders can be in play at any one time. The following are the special abilities available:

    Armored Spearhead Doctrine –-> While attacking, all armor receives a (+2) to attack the first round of combat                  
    Assault Infantry Doctrine —>  All infantry get a (+1) to  attack on the first round of combat.
    Defensive Doctrine —>  All units get a (+1) on defense the first round of combat.
    Precision Artillery --> All Artillery get a (+2) on attack and defense on the first round of combat.
    Air Warfare Doctrine —> During dog-fighting, fighters get a (+1) during the first round of combat.
    Close Air Support Emphasis—>  Tactical bombers get a (+1) on the first round of combat.
    Naval Warfare Tactician  —>  Able to command and provide tactical bonuses to naval units.
    Casualty Minimization —> Revive any 1 unit at the end of the battle. If losses exceed 6, revive 2.  
    Blitzkrieg Specialist —> Infantry and artillery blitz when paired with any vehicle.
    Supply Guru —> Being out of supply does not affect units under command.
    Industrial Genius —> If leader is on industrial complex at collect income phase, receive 1 extra IPC.
    Forced March—> Choose any 2 units after combat is resolved to strategically relocate anywhere within supply.
    Human Wave Tactics  —> Choose 1 friendly infantry as a casualty immediately (no return fire if defending). Choose and remove any 1 enemy ground unit.
    Defense in Depth —> On defense, function as if a fortress is present (I play with this fortress rule: each fortress present is able to ignore 2 hits and give up to 5 infantry a +1 on defense. Fortresses can be repaired like other structures, but are destroyed if they receive 2 hits).
    Gambler—> Number displayed is number of re-rolls authorized for friendly units or against enemy units (friendly units that miss can re-roll, or enemy units that hit have to re-roll).
    Deceptive Redeployment —> Before combat begins, redeploy up to 2 units from anywhere within supply to participate in battle on defense or offense.
    Zealot —> Ignore 1 hit per battle.
    Selective Targeting—> Choose any 1 enemy unit as a hit during a battle.
    Expeditious Industry–>  Build 1 extra unit on territory containing leader.
    Suppression Fire --> One of the chosen casualties per battle is not able to return fire.

    Additionally, certain nations have unique abilities:

    Germany: Mobile Warfare Doctrine —>  Mechanized infantry and armor attack and defend at a (+1) for the duration of the battle
    Italy: German Cooperation —> When paired with any German unit on a 1-1 basis, Italian infantry get +1 to attack or defense the first round of combat. Bonus applies even when led by a German leader but cannot stack.
    USA: Strategic Bombing —> Strategic bombers receive a +2 when conducting a strategic bombing run.
    UK and Commonwealth: Colonial Draft --> When located in any original territory regardless if industrial complex is present, ability to place 1 purchased infantry with leader per turn.
    France: Sabotage Specialist—> Choose an enemy unit. That unit cannot fire for 1 round.
    USSR: Partisan Organizer —> Create 1 Partisan unit up to 2 spaces away in enemy held territory per turn.
    Japan: Bonzai Charge —> Infantry receive a +2 on attack the first round of combat.

    I created the idea for leaders from a variety of sources, including the Struggle for Europe and Asia game, HBG, and Hearts of Iron 3. I like the idea of having information displayed on a leader unit card (about 1" x 1"), which contains an image of a historical leader, national flag, and icons of special abilities. I printed these images, glued them to a thin plastic sheet, and cut them out individually. These leader units can then be placed in a card stand. I also attempted to emphasize certain leaders for their exceptional quality, giving them multiple abilities. For example, Patton has the following abilities: Armored Spearhead Doctrine, Zealot, and Blitzkrieg Specialist. Manstein has Mobile Warfare Doctrine, Casualty Minimization, and Defense in Depth.

    My concern is that I am saturating the game with too many abilities. However, I also wanted to represent minor leaders with non-combat bonuses. I also like the idea of giving national flavor, to reflect the specialty of certain nations historically. I have play-tested these some, and they seem to have the right balance of impact without being overpowered. Right now, 96 leaders are in my variant with many neutral and minor nations represented. Appreciate any feedback, positive or negative, in improving these rules.


  • 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    A couple of comments.  First, I agree with your remark that this collection of bonuses “saturates the game with too many abilities” – which is actually such an excellent description of the problem that I won’t add anything further on that point.  Second, I think there’s a problem with seeing all of those bonuses as being conferred by introducing a “leader” unit.  Just from a quick glance, I’d say that most of the bonuses listed here have little or nothing to do with leadership, or at least with the leadership effects of a gifted commander in a position of high authority, or even with the concept of “delegated abilities” (which is problematic in itself because, while a commander can delegate some of his authority in terms of the chain of command he can’t delegate abilities which are part of his personal character).

    Some of the points you mention deal with doctrine, but doctrine is a product of an army’s culture and combat history and general philosophy, not (in most cases) the product of a leader imposing a new philosophy on his men.  Strategy concerns the overall planning process for fighting or winning a war – and in A&A, that role is technically filled by the player himself, not by a game unit.  If it were otherwise, a bad A&A player could win games simply by purchasing a “brilliant supreme commander” piece.  As for tactics, they deal with combat occuring at the local level between forces small enough in number to be actually shooting at each other – and in a game on the large scale of A&A, a brilliant leader on the tactical level would in general only directly affect his particular forces, not the army as a whole.  Things like “precision artillery” would be the product of improved training and perhaps improved technology, not superior leadership.  Things like “forced march” are perplexing because they seem to imply that the troops would only obey an order to go on a forced march if it came from a great leader rather than from the run-of-the-mill lieutenant who’s in charge of their unit.  And so forth.  So my suggestion would be: for whatever bonuses you decide to keep, list them simply as “bonuses” not as “leadership bonuses.”



  • Me too have over the years tried to exploit the Leader unit. Long story short, giving 100 different Leaders their own unique and specific abilities, will probably be too much for the average and casual player to get a decent grip on. Unique abilities, like Patton only boosts tanks, and Rommel only boosts infantry, will not even be remotely historical correct, since a skilled leader would be able to boost any kind of units under his command.

    The common Leader house rule that I now support, is that a Leader unit can reroll misses.

    Lets say your army of 3 tanks, 1 art, 9 inf and two planes attack Poland. You roll 15 dices, and get 5 hits and 10 misses. Now lets say this attacking army is attached to a Leader unit, you can now reroll the 10 misses, and maybe add 3 more hits before the defender roll any dice. I think this is a very simple rule that any casual player, no matter how lame or rookie, is able to understand and endorse.

    I am not against your suggestion, I just say they better fit with The Struggle, World in Flames or Hearts of Iron. A&A was never supposed to be that complex.

    Anyway, I think the Leader count should be limited. Germany and US should get a bunch, and Russia maybe one. France and Italy none. Se attached pic

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  • 2016 2015 '14 Customizer

    A simple leader solution that I plan on adding eventually is to add a “bonus” area to the battle board. In this bonus area you can put chips that do not fire, but rather take hits before any of your regular units have to take them. Say Patton is a “3” leader. You put three “hit chips” in the bonus area when Patton is fighting along with your forces. You remove the hit chips before you start removing your units. This way it takes the enemy longer to destroy your forces and gives your forces extra rolls to destroy his.


  • 2018 2017 2016 2015 '14 Customizer

    Some simple good ideas. I have a certain numbers of leaders start the game. ( can’t build any ) They all have a value. What ever the value is, gives troops or ships +1 on attack and defense.
    You get to use for first round of combat only.



  • Thanks all for the input. I’m new to “house ruling” but I’ve enjoyed thinking about and experimenting with different ideas that add some depth to the game. Definitely like the concept that some leaders reduce hits taken, while others increase damage inflicted. In my mind, it reflects the huge battles on the Eastern Front, where the Soviets ultimately won the day, but incurred massive casualties by comparison. It seems with this effort though, I’ve violated the KISS principle, which is such a big part of A&A. Play-ability should not get lost in the process. I’m intrigued by your ideas and I’ll go back to the drawing board and try out some of your suggestions. I do like the simplicity of re-rolls or “free hits.”

    CWO Marc, what rules do you prefer to use for leaders?

    SS, just so I understand your rule, if a leader has a value of 4 for instance, 4 of his units would receive a +1 to attack and defense?


  • 2018 2017 2016 2015 '14 Customizer

    Yes



  • @Macaoidh:

    I do like the simplicity of re-rolls or “free hits.”

    The beauty of House Rules is that in your basement, you are the King. If you like this rule, use it, if you don’t like it, trash it. Your basement is like a free country, man.

    But, when that is said, the idea of Free Hits sound to me like a Blockhouse, Pillbox, the Tank from A&A 1914 that absorb one hit when attacking, or the Battleship that takes two hits to kill. Now, is your Leader a Fortress ? An even worse idea is the +1 modifier. Techs will boost your unit +1, and Combined Arms will boost your unit +1, and if you play with terrain I guess mountains will boost your defenders +1. Is your Leader a Tech ? And the abilities, that looks like its lifted from the National Advantages option rules from A&A Revised 2004 edition. Is Patton the only Leader in the world that was able to retreat ? When I read history book, I figure he was not. Retreating is pretty common, you just cant do it in this A&A game because it will ruin the game.

    The only Leader rule that is absolute unique is the rerolling of dice. A units combat value is its firepower. A Tank or Infantry unit will have just so much firepower, no matter who is the Commander. But a skilled and cunning Leader will find a better way to use that firepower, and a better way to roll that dice. So I guess rerolling of misses is the most elegant Leader rule. IMHO.

    And to honor the traditional Keep it simple stupid KISS rule that is a trademark of A&A, I think the Leader unit should be a generic plastic piece, because Rommel could do nothing that Patton could not do too. A Leader is a Leader. The only difference is that Germany and USA should have more Leader units than the others, because they had the best leaders. Russia should have maybe one because Stalin had just purged most of his officers and generals just before the war started. But then, we are talking balance and playability. Remember its your basement.



  • @CWO:

    , a bad A&A player could win games simply by purchasing a “brilliant supreme commander” piece.Â

    When I play Germany then I am being Hitler, and purchasing brilliant supreme commanders to win battles in the Operational level were exactly what he did in the real war when he let Manstein take care of France and Rommel of Africa. Now that is exactly how a Leader unit will work. Being Hitler I purchase 5 Tanks, 10 Infantry and 2 aircrafts, and combat move them into Ukraine. My job is to take care of the grand strategy. But since I am a poor dice roller and get lots of misses, I purchase this Leader piece to reroll my misses. Lets name it Mission Tactics, or Auftragstactic in German. I send my men into Ukraine, but let my General, Field Marshall von Manstein take care of the Operation level dice rolling. Its kind of like I am the player, but I let my little sister do the dice rolling since she is more lucky than me. The tactical level being each unit types combat value, representing its firepower.

    Now, the other way is a rigid Commando Tactic, like the traditional French system, where the Nations President himself will order every single man, down to the platoon level, how to eat and when to sh!t. In this case you only roll dice once and live with the misses.

    Historically correct, Hitler would start the game with lots of Leaders that rerolled his misses and won lots of battles the first years, then he fired his Leaders and did all the dice rolling himself. That did not go very well. Stalin did it the other way, he started the game with no Leader units because he had purged them all before the game started, but after the first battles went bad, Stalin would purchase brilliant Leaders like Zhukov that rerolled his misses and won lots of battles.

    See my point ?


  • 2016 2015 '14 Customizer

    @Narvik:

    The only Leader rule that is absolute unique is the rerolling of dice.

    I don’t necessarily see this as a positive. In a game where simplicity is a trademark, having to remember a totally unique thing to do needlessly adds complication. The “hit chip” idea is pretty much like you said, soaking hits like a blockhouse, which is familiar to people. Adding “1” to units’ abilities is also familiar, as it is used in arms research.

    @Narvik:

    So I guess rerolling of misses is the most elegant Leader rule. IMHO.

    Rerolling misses does three distasteful things IMO. First, it lengthens an already long game. Second, it reduces the suspense of seeing dice results if the results are not necessarily final. On our game table, the dice trays are sacred - if the dice fall outside the tray, they must be re-rolled, but once they land on the felt in the tray, the result is always final. Third - there is a big chance this rule would cause animosity towards the player using the leader. You see his units miss at a key moment, then your glee turns to bitterness as he picks up the dice again and says “I can reroll these misses.”

    Other issues to think of are not related to dice rolling. The danger is if you have multiple leaders, you could use those leaders every time in each battle in different parts of the map, to the point where it is not “special” any more. And how does Patton, for example, get around? He is just one man, so travel shouldn’t be a problem. Does he have a personal plane where he can fly to whatever battle is important that round? Should he be “stuck” to a certain formation like the third army and only be allowed to transfer a limited number of times? Lots of issues to sort out.


  • 2018 2017 2016 2015 '14 Customizer

    You start with so many Leaders. You either place them where you want or they have to leave from a capital and ground leaders can only move 1 space and naval leaders start move with the ships from a capital.

    Each leader has a value and boost attack or defense +1.

    So if Patton is worth a 4, and you have 6 inf in a battle, only 4 inf get the boost. You have to start giving boost to the lowest piece first. If the values of leaders are that low, then you can have the boosted pieces fight every round.
    If the leaders have higher values, then they get the boost only first round of combat.
    Leaders also A 3  D 5 on there own. (D12)
    Leaders also A 2  D 3 on  (D6).

    My leaders have values of 9 to 5. Every country gets leaders except China.

    Iv’e only seen where the smaller battles help troops with leaders.


  • 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    @Macaoidh:

    CWO Marc, what rules do you prefer to use for leaders?

    I’ve never used any kind of Leader house rules, so I don’t have any favourite ones which I can recommend.  Just from a theoretical gaming perspective, however, and from the perspective of reasonable historical accuracy, here are some general thoughts on what I think would need to be considered when designing a leader unit for A&A games.

    • The leader unit should have a clear function.  It seems to me that there’s actually an unstated assumption that the term “leader unit” specifically means a “good leader unit” who confers a bonus of some sort.  After all, in real war there are often plenty of bad leaders who end up harming their own side rather than helping it… and who’d want to purchase a “bad leader unit” for a wargame?  Theoretically, it might be an interesting exercise for a wargame to allocate each team a combination of good leader units and bad leader units, to present each player with the challenge of managing the kinds of headaches that supreme commanders face in real life when they realize that some of their senior officers are poorly suited for command – but I doubt that many recreational wargamers would like to play a game that saddles them with these kinds of liabilities.  (Some wargame systems apparently include “idiocy rules” which force players to do the dumb things that actually happened in the historical war the games replicate.)

    • Another thing to consider is the issue of scale which I mentioned in my previous post.  The A&A global-level or theatre-level games (basically, all of them except D-Day, Bulge and Guadalcanal) operate at such a large scale that the effects of good leadership by anyone lower than a flag officer would probably be invisible… so in my opinion, the leader units should not represent anyone below the level of a general or an admiral.  At the same time, I’d argue that the supreme leadership of each combatant nation is represented by the players themselves, and therefore that it doesn’t make sense for a leader unit to represent this supreme leadership.  (This was the point I was driving at earlier when I said that if it were otherwise, a bad A&A player could win games simply by purchasing a “brilliant supreme commander” piece, but which I think I may not have explained clearly enough.  My point was that unit purchases can’t make someone play better.  A special unit could, in principle, be used to rationalize a system that allows a bad player to take back a stupid move and try something else, but personally I’d have no interest in a game system in which players are free to keep their good moves and discard their bad moves, or – as a variant of the same idea – are free to re-roll bad dice results.  In such a system, nobody would have any incentive to learn to play better.)

    • If we go with the principle that a leader unit represents flag officers (since the officers below them don’t show up on the A&A game scale, and since the national leaders above them are represented by the players themselves), then the bonus conferred by the leader unit (assumed to mean a “good leader unit”) should reflect accurately the effect that a good leader of flag rank can have on the conduct of military operations.  This is tricky because a lot of the strategic and operational decisions made by flag officers which affect the course of a war – things like where to launch major offensives, when to attack, what balance of forces to use, how many units to allocate to the offensive and so forth – are decisions that the players themselves make in the A&A gaming system.  So to expand on my previous point, the players don’t just represent the civilian leadership of the countries they play, they represent in a more general sense the “national command authorities” of those countries and of their armed forces.  Frankly, the only “good leadership bonus” that I can think of which is realistic, which fits the required command level, which is universally applicable in all service branches, and which is sufficiently abstract that it doesn’t involve any of the player’s actual playing decisions would be the morale factor.  Great leaders can boost significantly the motivation of their men, even if most of these men never meet them directly.



  • I agree with everything concerning the strategic scale and historical realism perspective. Most tactical and operational bonuses described here would be realistically conducted at the division or corps level, with army and army group commanders synonymous to actions by the player.

    However, I would argue that A&A itself is mostly notional. What I mean by that is it is not meant to be a hyper-detailed historical simulation or recreation of the war.  Industry, national production, movement, combat, casualties, and income collection are all a representation, not a simulation, of history. One example that comes immediately to mind is the idea that attacking aircraft cannot land in newly conquered territory. I understand the need for this rule for game balance, but I think we would be hard-pressed to find a historical example where advancing armies extended beyond the capability of an air force to provide some level of support (not to mention for an entire army group).

    So I do not think it is betraying the spirit of the game to introduce a “leader unit.” Also, this concept should not be limited only to the leadership bonuses an individual leader would provide. An argument could be made that the +1/reroll bonus provided by a “leader unit” represents not only that army group leader, but the summation of all the divisional and corps commanders and all of their collective military philosophy, culture, morale, and previously mentioned doctrine. Those and countless other effects historically influenced the combat effectiveness of armies and would have an impact on the outcome of battle. In fact, the sum of those influences were decisive (the Battle of France for example). The “leader unit” seems to be the simplest and most efficient way to represent these effects. By the way, that is a good point about bad leaders. I have not considered that concept before and I would even say bad leaders were just as impactful (Frendendall, Gamelin, Popov, Graziani, and even Hitler to name a few).


  • 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    @Macaoidh:

    However, I would argue that A&A itself is mostly notional. What I mean by that is it is not meant to be a hyper-detailed historical simulation or recreation of the war.

    Fair enough.  And I’ve just remembered a reference I once made to an American WWII general who significantly increased the operational effectiveness of the troops under his command: John S. Wood, about whom you can read more in my post of September 22, 2012 in this thread:

    http://www.axisandallies.org/forums/index.php?topic=28501.msg1013994#msg1013994



  • OK, Marc make some valid points. It is kind of redundant to boost your units +1 or reroll misses.

    What if we were clever and exploited the Turn order system ? Lets say this Leader unit represent a Joint Operations Staff that let allied units from two or more players combat move and do combat together. There have been a House Rule from the day of MB 1984 edition that let UK and US attack together one time only during a game, modelling the Normandy landings. Lets say this Leader unit let allied units under his command attack together all the time.

    When a Leader unit is mobilized in a seazone or territory, he control all naval, air and land units from his own and his allies that are currently in his space and the adjacent space too.
    Both the Leaders owner and his allies commit forces to this Joint Operation Leader during non combat move. At the Leaders players turn he combat move all units, from both own and allies, into where ever he likes, in a big Joint Operation.

    In a Global game I figure USA start with 2 Leaders, UK with 1, Germany with 3 or 4, and the rest with none.


  • 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    I think that one of the difficulties with the “leader = re-roll bad dice” mechanism is that, conceptually, it would mean that a good leader is only useful to have when things go wrong, and that he brings an army no advantages when things go right.  To my mind, this is closer to a Monopoly “Get out of jail free” card than a leader unit.  Realistically, a “good leader unit” should be beneficial in all circumstances, not just when things go wrong.  Or perhaps I should say “potentially beneficial” in the sense that it could allow a player to try things (albeit with no guarantee of success) that would not be possible to try (or that would have a much greater chance of failure) if the country he plays does not have good leadership.  The Normandy invasion was a case in point: it took all of Eisenhower’s powers of persuasion and all his organizational abilities to get the Americans and the British (who had a fractious relationship, different strategic priorities, and high-profile competing prima donnas like Patton and Montgomery) to cooperate sufficiently for the D-Day landings to function.  So the kind of joint-operations model that Narvik proposes would be one example of how this sort of thing could be replicated in A&A.  Perhaps the “leader unit” (representing a single individual) should actually be thought of as a “leadership unit” (representing the command structure of a country in a more broader sense, or more narrowly a body like the Joint Chiefs of Staff).


  • 2018 2017 2016 2015 '14 Customizer

    Already have the 1 time only  US, UK joint attack in game. I still think generals should be in the game. I’m still going to play with the values and also maybe put in where a general rolls 1 D6 and on a roll of 2 or less he can only use half his value on attack or defend because he made a bad tactical move.

    I’ll  play around with it more.



  • Maybe the Leader unit belong in the Facility class, among with IC, Ports and Airbases ? Maybe even add a Fortress unit that soaks hits to make the list complete ?

    Of course the Leader unit will be mobile, even if representing the command structure of a country.

    His abilities would probably be better control and command of the other units. Maybe better Combined Arms modifiers between land, air and naval units ? Or a possible Joint Strike ability to add allied units in attack when they start from his space.

    An Airbase can scramble fighters into adjacent seazones being attacked. Maybe a Leader can scramble fighters into adjacent territory when attacked ? Or let fighters land in a newly captured territory if the Leader is there too ?

    If the Leader act as an Admiral, maybe let Shore bombardment boost up any matching infantry, like the Arty does ?

    Or let the Leader implement some of the new rules from A&A 1914, like Artillery get a preemptive shot at landing units, and Tanks absorb one hit when attacking etc. I would even let a Leader combat move Tanks and Mechs through a newly captured territory to do combat in the second territory, to represent Breakthrough. Or let Tanks non combat move out of a newly captured territory, so they are not stuck there, this would be a supreme Strafing tactic.

    Maybe even let a defending Leader retreat after first round of combat when being attacked ?




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