down for After Action Reports)
"When TAC:WWII came out I
decided 6mm was the scale for me. Now I've found
ARC of FIRE and I'm sure glad I didn't sell my
20mm collection. Fast and effective - these rules
do for twentieth centry skirmish game what the
machinegun did for firepower!"
-Richard Crawley (Society of
Twentieth Century Wargamers)
"I recommend taking a look
at these rules. I picked up my copy at
Historicon. These are fine rules. Their
production value is high with good quality paper
and printing, and 4 quick reference sheets, only
two of which are required for a game because they
are seperated by scale(that is, two for smaller
scales and two for larger scales). I hope
the publishers will sell these sheets seperately,
and they might already be up on the website for
download. Any game goes quicker when
everyone has a reference sheet. They are on
A4 size paper, so if you are in the US and you
cut the backs off your rulesets to put them in
binders so they lay flat, that is a slight
drawback. Of course they play very well, which is
something everyone would expect from Mr. Fisher
and Mr. Pringle. Fights are quick and lethal.
Activation uses a card system which keeps the
suspense high. Lots of fun for skirmish game
players. Any scale is usable, and the rules cover
1900-2000, but other periods could easily be
played with a little work.In short, good game,
worth your attention."
anyone who has played TAC-WW2, this new set of
rules from TAC Publications will seem like a
natural progression. TAC-Skirmish: Arc of Fire
(AoF) is a set of skirmish rules for the entire
20th Century and is based around the original
TAC-WW2 rules, with modifications to suit the
smaller scale battle. Suitable for squad to
company-level games, the rules are aimed at
Production quality has improved immensely when
compared to TAC:WW2 - the booklet is well laid
out with good clear text, charts, diagrams and
black & white pictures. The full-colour cover
is protected by a clear plastic sheet and there
are four double-sided quick-reference sheets, two
for regular scale and two for large scale games.
The rule book contains 77 pages, 50 detailing the
rules themselves, with another 25 providing a
selection of six scenarios in the style of the
popular Skirmish Campaigns scenario booklets. The
scenarios cover the Boxer Rebellion, World War
One, World War Two, Vietnam and Angola.
The core elements of the rules are TAC Modes and
TAC Rolls. Modes reflect the commanders ability
to strike the right balance between firepower and
manoeuvre, with three modes available - Advance,
Defence and Confused. TAC rolls must be made to
change units from one mode to another, failure to
do so results in the units going into confused
mode. This doesn't mean the unit does nothing for
the turn, rather that the unit will carry out its
orders less effectively. As you may have guessed,
TAC rolls are made by unit commanders and values
range from 4 up to 8, the lower the better as you
have to roll over this value on a ten-sided dice
The turn sequence is interesting in that it uses
playing cards, one colour for each side, with
units being allocated two cards each. Every turn,
the card deck is shuffled then cards are revealed
one at a time. When a units' card is turned, its
commander can attempt to change its mode, then
the unit can carry out an activity such as move
There are the usual rules for movement, spotting,
direct fire, artillery and morale that you would
expect with a 20th Century set of rules.
Additional rules include weather, engineering,
and airborne and amphibious operations. A feature
of interest is a random events table listing 100
possible events. This is an optional rule and is
triggered by the playing of a wild card in the
normal card sequence. One wild card is allocated
per side. Actually, there are many other small
optional rules dotted throughout the booklet that
players can use as they see fit - anything from
using special camouflage to close-combat weapons
such as swords, knives etc.
Other points to note - there are plenty of
designers notes, always useful to read when
trying to understand why the rules are the way
they are, plus quotes from history books about
the period that provide insights into combat at
the skirmish level.
I know the rules are aimed at the entire 20th
century but I suspect many WW2 gamers will find
out about them and will probably be thinking 'oh
no - not another set of rules, why should we buy
these when there are already many sets
available?' Well, it's a valid point and I can't
say these rules are any better or any worse than
other sets available. I can, however, say that
they offer a different slant on a popular period
of warfare with some interesting features,
although they are part of the current trend to
favour command, control and troop quality over
technical details, complex penetration charts and
so on that was all the rage back in the 70s and
80s - I know, I used to play those sets and
loathed them! I'll certainly give Arc of Fire a
go as I like the idea behind TAC Modes and TAC
Available at a cost of $20 in the US or £12.50
in the UK.
'Very Good' by Pete on 10 October 2002.
Arc of Fire by Scott Fisher
and Chris Pringle, Tac Publications
middle-aged wargamers I spent my formative
teenage years away from historical gaming in the
murky dungeon filled world of role-playing games.
For a while building up characters and seeing
them prosper and fall took on a worryingly real
perspective that certainly kept me distracted
from the joys of O level homework.
a majority of part time druids and space-farers
this activity slowly ground to a halt after the
sweaty confines of the university gaming club
disappeared and the reality of working for a
living hit home.
somewhere in the back of my psyche there
continued a desire to revisit the dizzy heights
of those character filled games. I started
thinking that it would be nice to play games
where you actually cared about the figures on the
table, could rejoice when a feared enemy was
beaten or cringe when you were on your last legs.
leaving fantasy gaming to return to the
historical fold I yearned for a mixture of
role-play feeling and historical action. This
thirst was not slated by many of the skirmish
level games, which failed to give any real
feeling for the tabletop figures.
sequence of events has however fulfilled my
quest. First a plethora of what can only be
described as superb 28mm historical figures has
appeared from a number of manufacturers. I then
discovered a set of rules on CD-Rom called Battleground
WW2 from Easy Eight publications. The seed
was planted as the rules based on 1:1 had very
close role-playing links.
few gaming friends and forcing them to try the
rules I thought that Christmas had basically
arrived early and furthermore Santa couldnt
be bothered to travel and dumped all the goodies
with me! However disaster struck on both flanks;
Easy Eight went into hiatus leaving its future
support uncertain and we found that when we added
multiple squads or any form of armour the game
bogged down very quickly. It was impossible to
play a game in a club night and like most
Christmas presents it lost some of the magic
when left for a few days.
finally flowered when a friend recommended I
acquire a copy of a new set of rules called
Arc of Fire, claiming that they were
Battleground without the pain. The
rules were already attracting attention at
For £12.50 I
took the plunge. What I found was a game that
even with the optional detail rules (which give a
personal feel to the figures) are fast moving,
highly enjoyable and satisfy my role-playing
requirements. Although I use them for WWII games
they are actually designed to cover the period
1900-2000, a very broad sweep of history indeed.
What follows is an overview of the rules while
trying to explain how the game mechanisms give a
role-play feel and yet remain flowing:
Note: This review within the subscription part of
the magazine also includes an introductory WWII
Arc of Fire scenario.
initiative system is card based. As in a few of
the better skirmish games cards represent each
unit or group. These cards are collected together
and shuffled to make a pack with each card being
turned over in sequence to determine the order
that the units take their actions in each turn.
When a groups
card is turned it gets to act. Games that use
such a system include Battleground WWII, which
has each group represented by one card, and Face
of Battle, which has every figure, represented by
a card. A particularly elite squad could have 3
cards, ensuring that they act in a more flexible
way and get more done per turn. In this way the
uncertainty of battle and the fog of war is
represented and the game usually runs at fever
pitch. You cant be sure that your troops
will act before its too late!
In Arc of
Fire a unit can be composed of a number of
figures. In smaller games you may have each fire
team (a third to half a squad, approximately 3-5
figures) represented by a unit. In larger games
one card may represent each squad, or even
This is the
first example of how the simple game concepts
have a deep philosophical effect on
game play. Different national doctrine can easily
be represented on the table. The more cards a
force has the more flexible its tactics can be.
Veteran Paratroops may be represented with cards
for each fire team allowing half a squad to be in
a defensive mode providing covering fire while
the other half are in advance mode. However a
squad that is only represented by a single
initiative card has to be careful about elements
straying out of command range (12 if using
28mm figures), is easier to disrupt and can
perform less effectively when activated.
use customised cards but a normal pack of playing
cards can be used. One side uses red cards the
other black. An example would be a sniper group
with two cards being represented by a two of
Diamonds and a two of Hearts.
The author of
the rules, Scott Fischer, makes an important
assumption in the design notes for the game that
has a huge effect on how quickly the game flows.
assume that infantry are always using the best
cover and are prone when practicable but are in a
position to fire their weapons.
means is that the players are unconcerned with
marking the figures as standing, prone or
kneeling. This saves huge amounts of time over
the course of a game. However in actual game
terms you dont lose any realism but you
certainly save on markers cluttering the board! I
consider this an excellent decision by the
designers that not only works well, but also
saves lots of time over the course of a 3-hour
In the game
units can be in one of the following three modes;
advance, confused or defence or the one
compulsory mode; broken. The optional modes apply
to all figures in a unit or group. The compulsory
mode, broken, is an individual result and applies
to specific figures within the unit or group.
lets all the different individuals in the group
do whatever they like, some may shoot while
others fire. However it assumes that the entire
group are moving around in some way. Thus even if
in cover you only get the smallest modifier to
being hit. I often term this as normal mode to
beginners to stop them thinking you have to
lets you make the most of your cover and any
firing. No member of the group may move. It is in
defence mode that automatic weapons can use
opportunity fire and covering fire. If hidden
spotting ranges will be halved if you are in
Confused mode means your troops dont know
what they are supposed to be doing. This usually
happens as a result of trying to change mode and
failing, or by failing a unit morale test.
Represented in game terms by all the troops
having to move OR fire.
happens as a result of getting wounded or failing
a personal morale test (e.g. when your buddy
sharing your foxhole explodes all over your face
a gory death result on the wounding
table!) In this mode you do nothing but find
cover and make yourself as small as possible.
At the heart
of the rule system is the TAC (Tactical Ability)
value and role. Troops are assigned a TAC value
which reflects their training and to an extent
experience. The TAC number must be equalled or
beaten on a D10 roll. The best elite troops are a
4, while shoddy troops are an 8.
effects everything a figure does. Its major game
use is when you try and change modes, failing
your TAC role plummets the troops into confused
mode. This could be that the leader didnt
get across the instructions clearly, maybe an
explosion muffled him, and so instead of half the
squad laying down fire while the others move they
all do the same thing.
The TAC value
also affects a myriad of other things. Fail your
TAC and you dont spot the troops about to
open up on you from the hedgerow. Calling in
artillery needs a build-up of TAC roles. Tankers
need to pass a TAC role to quickly get rid of the
results of being severely shaken by a
non-penetrating round. Moving through an obstacle
such as wire, or to stop a vehicle from getting
bogged all need a TAC role.
miscellaneous task can be attempted by making a
TAC role. In our games such actions as jumping a
wall while on the run can be achieved on a TAC
role, a medic can make a successful TAC role and
negate the effects of a wound etc. Obviously,
modifiers can be applied as seen fit.
Morale is also dealt with by a D10 roll but is
separate from TAC ability.
A group of
fanatic religious attackers (remember the rules
cover from 1900-2000) can be poorly trained with
a high TAC value (making it hard to do much
tactically with them) but have a good morale
rating (they are fanatic!) which means they will
be very determined to rush up to you and kill you
even if they cant quite figure out how.
On the other
hand the best-trained Paratrooper that has fought
through Normandy, Holland and the Rhine may be
very reluctant to stick their neck out as the war
comes to a close. Thus they would have a low
morale rating but a high TAC value. German SS
troops defending their homeland would fight to
the last and have a high TAC and morale. By
mixing and tweaking the two values you can
recreate the character of the troops
at a specific point in time.
often seen as a painful part of any rule system.
In larger level games, or in Company games you
can often disregard it by having high saving
throws. In skirmish level games, figures need to
be hidden; its fun to sneak up on troops.
So they are a necessary part of the game. In Arc
of Fire spotting is done when the units
initiative card is turned over or if something
moves in your possible line of sight.
groups in different modes are potentially spotted
at various distances. If you fail a TAC role
these distances are halved. Performing certain
actions such as firing increases the distance at
which you can be spotted, being in a camouflaged
position halves the distance etc.
mechanics give a good, realistic result. Try
spotting from an enclosed tank and youll
see very little in the way of infantry. The
commanders have to expose themselves to potential
opportunity fire to see properly.
can be represented in the game by markers with
each initiative card allowing 2 dummy markers to
be positioned. In games without a referee this
works well and saves any mapping drudgery.
Firing in the
rules is simple; if you spot a target you can
fire at it with a certain number of D10
(depending on the weapons rate of fire) and you
need to roll a specific number to hit depending
on the weapons range. The effects of any firing
depend on how successful the hit roll was. If you
only just make the required roll the hit may only
be a close shave and only inflict a morale check.
optional rules the wound table is consulted when
the normal table shows a Wound or Killed result.
The results range from a flesh wound with no
effect to a very gory death, which may affect the
morale of troops around the figure. The firing
system is easy to get used to and we very often
dont look at the charts to determine
can pick targets so you generally roll all the
dice fired at a target group in one go with any
hits being distributed randomly. This can result
in all hits being on the one enemy figure, very
Although Arc of Fire has no specific suppression
or pinning rules suppressive fire and pinning,
which are so important to any modern skirmish
game, occur naturally in Arc of Fire.
pinned when enough figures suffer a failed morale
roll and are broken. The other figures in the
group cant risk moving. The group will be
below strength and leaving figures outside of
command radius is not advisable.
To pin a
group will require laying down lots of lead,
therefore laying down suppressive fire is a
natural process. Groups in defence mode can lay
covering fire. This lasts until their next action
card is turned over and allows a number of fire
dice to be used as targets move in or fire from
the zone you are covering.
Defence mode may also engage in opportunity fire
if they pass a TAC role and have an initiative
card remaining this turn.
suspected targets is also allowed. Thus even
though you cant see the machine gun nest
that may be in the hedge opposite, you can ask
your supporting tank to machine gun the area and
you may break its morale.
combat is also very simple although. The same
basic mechanics are used; just a different
results table for hard targets is consulted.
Guns and some small arms have a figure for soft
and hard targets. The targets armour value comes
of your dice roll as a negative modifier. So do
other modifiers like target movement etc.
Vehicles can be neutralized (while the crew
recover from the ordeal of being hit),
immobilized or destroyed. Optional rules allow
the radio to be knocked out, limit firing etc.
core rules do not require you stipulating what
shell you have loaded; obviously house rules
would suffice if you needed more detail. The
armour rules are a lot simpler than other systems
with all the various range, penetration and
armour factors being built into the hit
and effect tables, which are easy to
different types of armour shots with the Arc of
Fire, Battleground WW2 and Face of Battle rules.
Surprisingly after working out about 35 different
types of shots with each set of rules it panned
out that the overall results were the same.
(76mm) had about as much chance of taking a
Panther out at short to mid range in all the rule
sets. I did omit the fire stabilisation rules for
the Sherman as hardly any of the crews apparently
used it anyway, although they figured in all of
the rules as options.
difference between the rules was the time each
took. Arc of Fire required one roll, plus the
crew check if needed and a possible optional
damage roll. The other systems needed up to 5
rolls followed by crew checks and required access
to at least 3 charts and tables (sometimes more).
Such simple rules for armour allows for the
deployment of more on the table.
concentrating on forming individual characters
would be complete without a way to get some
characters to become heroes and others cowards.
In Arc of Fire this occurs as a result of certain
individual morale rolls. In this way a figure may
become a heroic figure to the squad, someone they
will follow, someone who ignores their first
wound etc. These can of course be carried into
that I have found a game that finally slakes my
thirst for providing a role-playing feel to a
historical period. Squad sheets can be kept from
game to game; linking the game into a campaign is
also relatively easy. My US Paratrooper platoon
based on Band of Brothers has a field history,
charting wounds and replacements. As a result you
tend to look after your named figures in games
but being a replacement in this platoon is akin
to wearing a red vest and beaming down to an
unknown planet with captain Kirk!
encourage anyone with an interest in 20th Century
Skirmish games to give the rules a go. At only
£12.50 they are well worth a look. For any club
night or event it would be my only choice above
squad level because of the speed of play.
encourage house rules. In fact a rule set
covering such a large time scale needs house
rules for specific period quirks. There are more
detailed sets of rules available, especially when
dealing with armoured combat but as described it
is debatable if the increased detail actually
ends in a more believable result anyway.
provide statistics for all of the major vehicles
and weapons and there is active support on the
web on the Arc of Fire Home Page at
provide scenarios for several conflicts including
a good Boxer Rebellion one. These have resulted
in our group gaming eras that we would not have
touched otherwise. As the core rules are the same
it is very easy to pick up a new period. The down
side of the generic feel is that if you are
interested in a specific period outside of the
ones covered in more detail then you will have to
do more research and devise house rules yourself.
I dont feel this is a big issue as most
gamers do this type of research anyway.
also produce excellent WWII campaign/scenario
booklets, which are ideal for Arc of Fire. These
booklets add a lot of detail on the various units
and orders of battle, which is lacking in the
The rules work well for figures from 10mm
upwards, although I find even 15mm lacks the
individual feel I like. We have played some
company level actions in 15mm however and if you
use the core rules without the detailed options
the games are very free flowing.
figures with the optional rules the game has a
great feel. Club players are often seen hooting
and groaning at events, cheering on heroes and
giving running commentaries on the action. This
is especially prevalent when the unexpected
occurs due to a failed TAC role!
end of a long review, which I hope was of some
help to you in terms of understanding what AoF is
all about. Subscribers to Wargames Journal can
get hold of a complete Normandy scenario for AoF
in this issue.
AFTER ACTION REPORTS
Somalia Skirmish Action
Here is a very interesting action using US
Marines and Somalians
Capture the Commissar! [..scenario comming soon
This was a scenario that I ran at my local club
on a Monday night with no preparation, for two
players who had never used the Arc of Fire rules
before. It took me half an hour to plan it and to
set up the terrain and sort out the troops. We
played the game in just over an hour and a half.
The scenario could readily be adapted for almost
any skirmish setting. The basic scenario was
simple: a wounded Russian commissar and his loyal
bugler were stranded somewhere in a farm complex
in the middle of the table; Russians wanted to
retrieve the commissar; Germans wanted to stop
The farm comprised one farmhouse, three
outhouses, a cattle mire (heavy going), some
unfenced cornfields and small haystacks, with a
couple of small woods by it. The rest of the
table had scattered cover such as woods and small
hills, a stream, a marsh. For games of this size
it is a good idea to put some terrain items
within 8" of each other so that a unit can
cross the gaps between them with just two cards
(though you still want some longer more open
spaces as well).
A 9-man rifle squad, 6-man SMG squad and a GAZ
jeep with 2 crew came on the southern table edge
to rescue the commissar and take him off the
opposite, northern edge. Meanwhile a German 8-man
rifle squad with one LMG, a 6-man MG squad and a
6-man HQ team with 2 50mm mortars was arriving
from the west to interfere.
The Russians were mostly Tac 7 and Good morale,
with the exception of the Commissar who was Tac 6
and Excellent morale (but wounded, so could only
act on his unit's first card). The commissar, the
bugler, and the jeep were treated as one unit;
only the two Russians in the jeep were capable of
driving it. The Germans were a mixture: competent
and motivated HQ (T5, M Good); rather raw but
enthusiastic riflemen (T6, M Good); and some
cautious veterans in the MG squad (T5, M
Average). The German mortars had 6 HE and 6 smoke
Everyone arrived on Turn 1 except the commissar
and his bugler, who the Russian player was
allowed to deploy concealed anywhere within the
farm complex (in our game he opted for the
outhouse next to the cattle mire - must have been
a tight squeeze in there for the two of them
...). I made the Russian decide where his
commissar was, then let the German player
establish which table edges were north etc. The
Germans could arrive anywhere on their (west)
table edge, the Russians anywhere on the southern
edge at least 12" from the western edge.
For a 5-point victory the Russians had to get the
Commissar off the table; a decisive victory would
have got him off in the jeep. The Germans won if
the Commissar was killed; they got a decisive
victory if he was captured (either defeated in
hand to hand combat, or getting a unit morale
result of Destroyed or individual morale result
of Craven Coward).
All went disastrously wrong for the Russians in
the first two turns as the turn of the cards and
good German dice meant the two rifle squads got
in a firefight which the Germans won unscathed,
while they managed to blow up the jeep and wound
both its crew with a mortar direct hit. The next
few turns saw Germans mopping up Russian
stragglers and wounded from the rifle squad and
the jeep crew, while the Commissar bolted from
his privy, and he and the SMG squad fled from one
end of the farm to the farmhouse at the other
end. The German MG teams had meanwhile moved up
to block the exit.
A farcical firefight with almost no actual
casualties but lots of Broken troops taking cover
ensued. The last few mortar bombs wrecked the
farmhouse and scared the Russian SMGs, who for
their part had disrupted the German MGs, while
catching crabs (as rolled on the random events
table - we figured the farmhouse must be
vermin-ridden!). Next turn the Russian luck
turned as the bugler got a near miss on a
cowering MG34 gunner, causing a unit test. No
doubt influenced by the supporting one-man charge
being carried out against them by the Russian
rifle squad leader - the sole survivor from his
squad and by now a Hero immune to morale tests
and armed only with a pistol - the Germans failed
their test disastrously and were destroyed.
Germans lost two wounded, Russians lost 11 dead
but the commissar escaped for 5 points, and it
was a pretty riotous game. The reactions from
first-time players were interesting. Early on the
German player said he "had issues with the
morale system", as two or three Soviet
riflemen fought on after most of their comrades
in the rifle squad were killed, indeed one of
them became a Hero. Meanwhile the Russian player
got pretty depressed by his riflemens' deaths and
just ran away for about 3 turns. All this changed
when the game was turned on its head by the
German machinegunners losing their nerve. It gave
the German player a new perspective on the
vagaries of the morale rules - and after all,
even the Russians who passed their test still
voluntarily withdrew - and the Russian player
cheered up considerably!
This scenario was very loosely based on
situations arising during the vast encirclement
operations of 1941 and 1942, when the Soviets
lost millions of men but were often able to
extract their key headquarters staff from the
pockets. It would be easy to run this scenario
again in almost any theatre of war you like just
by changing the VIP: a general, a special agent,
a political figure, a downed pilot, someone's
girlfriend, etc. I'm sure I will!
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